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Weingarten: ATRs, summit could help reduce absenteeism

The city needs a summit to tackle elementary-grade absenteeism, according to United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

And she says drawing on the skills of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool could help get students to school:

This is a challenging and complex issue, and a “business as usual” approach is not going to properly address it. That’s why the UFT is calling for a summit on this issue. A workable solution is going to require collaboration between the city and the community to make sure that proper services and supports are available to every school and every student that needs access to them. Needs and resources must be aligned. For example, we know that the attendance teacher ranks are spread very thin, and that there are more than 200 guidance counselors, social workers and attendance teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool that could be immediately utilized to help reverse this alarming trend.

Weingarten’s entire response is posted after the jump.

The “Strengthening Schools By Strengthening Families Center” report published today by the New School’s Center on New York City Affairs, an independent and widely respected urban policy research center, has done an immense public service in identifying a crisis of chronic student absence in many of New York City’s public schools.

We know that chronic school absence is one of the strongest predictors of academic failure. The high rate of NYC student absence – as high as 30% of students in areas of the highest economic need in our city – is a glaring problem which has not been properly addressed by the Department of Education. Since the numbers cited in the Center’s report are taken directly from the DoE’s data, there is no question regarding the scope of this crisis.

The DoE’s response at this morning’s event to simply shift responsibility to schools and principals is not the answer. This is a challenging and complex issue, and a “business as usual” approach is not going to properly address it. That’s why the UFT is calling for a summit on this issue. A workable solution is going to require collaboration between the city and the community to make sure that proper services and supports are available to every school and every student that needs access to them. Needs and resources must be aligned. For example, we know that the attendance teacher ranks are spread very thin, and that there are more than 200 guidance counselors, social workers and attendance teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool that could be immediately utilized to help reverse this alarming trend.

Today’s report shows just how important it is for New York City and the Department of Education to “keep their eye on the prize” of the problems that dramatically impact on the academic performance of students, and it provides a direct link to my public call for community schools earlier this year, where students and their families could have access to a host of existing social services provided by various city and state agencies in a central location. It is also part of the public safety net that the ONE NY coalition is fighting so hard to preserve in these difficult economic times.

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