When a counselor from the Attendance Recoupment Team arrives at a parent’s doorstep for a home visit, the tap on the door means opportunity is knocking.
ART consists of seven counselors and five school social workers – all Long Beach Unified School District positions that already existed but this year are focused as a team on improving the attendance of habitually truant students. Team members have made thousands of phone calls and home visits to offer students a second chance, complete with referrals to social service agencies, key contacts at school, and other resources.
“The response from parents has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Tiffany Brown, director of Coordinated Student Services. “Most parents are pleasantly surprised to be offered the extra assistance.”
The team’s impact on attendance will be tallied in the coming months. Already, the effort shows signs of success, with parents, school principals and students praising the program’s effectiveness.
“During my freshman year I felt depressed,” Jordan High School student Racquel Mejia told the Board of Education at a recent meeting. “I felt like I wasn’t good enough to be in the IB (International Baccalaureate) Program. I didn’t want to go to school anymore. It was a big struggle with myself to get up in the morning.”
Mejia recently was summoned to the school office to meet with social worker Mynor Montiel of the Attendance Recoupment Team.
“We started talking about why I was absent so much,” Mejia said. “I started to tell him how I felt. Mr. Montiel encouraged me and told me that I could do it, that I could achieve my goals. He told me that he saw a lot in me and he believed in me. He gave me a lot of advice and encouragement. Now I am a sophomore who really tries her hardest in school and gets up in the morning with no problems. I enjoy school and the learning process.
“I am very grateful to Mr. Montiel and school social workers like him. They make a big impact on my life.”
Counselors and social workers from the attendance team also contact parents to thank them for their children’s improved attendance. The approach seems to work.
“Our attendance has definitely improved and will continue to improve due to ART’s diligent work and relationship building,” said Ed Garcia, principal at Whittier Elementary School, one of the selected schools receiving ART’s support. “The work ART has done for us has been incredible.”
Aside from improving student achievement, better attendance also improves school budgets. The bulk of state funding for schools is allocated based upon Average Daily Attendance.