Students at Persistently Low-Achieving (PLA) schools are missing more days of class than other JCPS middle and high schools.
A report released by the Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA) finds 24.3 percent students at PLA schools miss at least 20 days of class. For all other schools that number is 15 percent. Now the JCTA is asking the community to get involved and it has requested Mayor Greg Fischer and Superintendent Donna Hargens form a task force to investigate the issue, said Brent McKim, president of the JCTA and a high school science teacher.
“These schools are doing everything that they know what to do. They’re funded based on attendance; they have family resource centers that are working to try to get the students there. But clearly they need support and help from the community,” he said.
JCPS is aware of the numbers and several PLA schools have actually decreased the amount of students with 20 or more absences (see numbers below) over the past few years, said officials.
“Most all schools have seen moderate increase in attendance,” said Barbara Ayers, director of pupil personnel.
Ayers said part of the improvement is from programs like Freshman Academy, which helps 8th grade students transition into high school.
The district has been working collaboratively with certain agencies for years, she said. The county attorney has been supportive and sends letters to parents of students who have six or more unexcused absences, advising they can be prosecuted, she said. Six or more absences make a student truant according to state statute.
“He just lays it right on out there. And we’ve done this letter for a long, long time. So there are some already collaborative efforts with the courts system…anybody we can get a hold of,” said Ayers.
Around 400 to 450 JCPS students a year are referred to county court for failure to miss school, she said. Not every student will make it to court; some are provided interventions that must be complied with and others become part of the truancy diversion program, which through the courts, monitors the student’s attendance, she said.
McKim said it’ll be a community effort to address the issue of high absence rates.
Data between school years “2008-2009” to “2010-2011.” Below are three-year rate increases and decreases when considering PLA schools with students who miss 20 or more days of class. Data provided by JCPS.
Academy at Shawnee: 7.94
Fern Creek: 0.08