Mamie Till Mobley

"There was an important mission for me, to shape so many...young minds as a teacher. God took away one child but...(gave) me thousands. And I have been grateful for the blessing." Mamie Till Mobley

Thursday, October 7, 2010

California consultant to study attendance data in Buffalo schools

District laid-off the attendance teachers in 2005 in a dispute with the Buffalo Teachers Federation over the single health carrier that deprived children of their right to benefit from a free public school education.

How many of them followed the pipeline to drugs, jails, and prisons as the result of missing out on an opportunity to attend school during the period attendance teachers laid-off?

So from a faculty of 18 attendance teachers only three left after the lay-off in 2005 and one retired in May 2010, not replaced yet. Still, district officials continue to balk at reinstating the teachers even though attendance data from the period 2005 to 2010, particularly in the academic high schools (Bennett, Burgard, Lafayette, Riverside, and South Park) classified as "persistently failing" showed a decline.

Yet none of these high schools ever had an attendance rate below the eighties when attendance teachers managed and supervised the attendance offices in the high schools, while now most of them are in the seventies at Riverside as low as 74%.

Now Buffalo school officials have contracted a national researcher Hedy- Nai-Lin Chang from California to peruse the attendance data they provided to her to inform them why students don't come to school.

Chang 's idea is to track and address chronic absence in early elementary school. And in 2008, she worked as a consultant for the Annie E. Casey Foundation researching the causes of children missing extend periods of school from kindergarten through third grade in Baltimore and other cities. She created an Attendance Counts powerpoint and Race to Top paper on Attendance Data and Early Warning Systems in 2009-10.

Over the next several weeks Chang we'll ask questions to a focus group to help her understand why Buffalo students don't come to school in order to provide the information to district officials. And once they are provided the reasons, what is the district going to do, continue to deny reinstating the attendance teachers?

So the question is not why they are not coming to school, but what is the School Board doing about addressing the issue of high absenteeism in the district? While Commissioner's Regulation 104.1 already requires the School Board to read the attendance data annually and to develop intervention strategies if the rates decline.

Meanwhile back at the ranch so to speak the district attendance teachers continue laid-off because the school officials rather not comply with the back pay owed to them when they were wrongfully deprived of their salaries and tenure in 2005.

Buffalo Public Schools had a stellar Attendance Department with thirty-five attendance teachers in 1997. Under the guidance of its Director, Maxine Hare, the teachers provided truancy intervention throughout the district from kindergarten through secondary education though the New York State Compulsory Education Law covers children from ages 6 to 16.
And up to 17 if there are over 6,500 students enrolled in school, providing the the Board of Education the option of increasing the age what happened in the Buffalo Schools in 2004.

Also, New York State Compulsory Education laws are unique in the nation while section 3213 outlines the appointment, compensation, powers and duties of supervisors of attendance, attendance teacher and truant officers. And Section 3213 begins by stating:

"To the end that children shall not suffer through unnecessary failure to attend school for any cause whatsoever, it shall be the duty of each attendance teacher and each attendance supervisor to secure for every child his right to educational opportunities..."

Thus, Section 3213 gives additional powers to attendance teachers to arrest truants, to arraign them in court, as well as, to enter any place of business to verify employment certificates and enter any place the public has access to investigate if there are any students who should be in school.

Also, there use to be an Attendance Intervention Mobile called the AIM team a collaboration between Buffalo Police Officers and Attendance teachers, working together to arrest truant students. Funding for this attendance intervention program cut back in 2003 or 2004.

Meanwhile the Buffalo Police presence increased in the Buffalo Schools a Chief of Police paid through the districts and there are fifty-five police officers in the schools according to the final report about the organization of the Buffalo Schools.

James Kane, Chief of Staff for the Buffalo Schools had commented in 2005 after announced at press conference in the Board Room how many teachers the district planned to lay-off, "we went deep into attendance," he said.

So, for the past five years, I've wanted to know who the "we" had been who axed the attendance teachers because at the time Superintendent James Williams recently selected for the job merely rubber stamped the decision.

Yet, in his almost six-year tenure he never rescinded it though his own motto was, "behave, be on time, be in school," something he seems to have forgotten though it's the reason why attendance teachers supported his candidacy when he was being vetted in April 2005.

In the resubmitted race to the top application for federal funds some of the teachers at one of the persistently failing schools recommended revamping the district Attendance Policy in place since 2000 when the regulations of the Commissioner of Education mandated them. Perhaps, its an area the district should share information with Hedy Chang for any recommendations to renew the policy.

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Whitney Tilson (3rd background)

Whitney Tilson (3rd background)
"Let’s be honest: we need a lot more well-off, well-educated white folks with a personal stake in both charter schools and education reform in general if we’re going to take reform to the next level, both politically and operationally.Whitney Tilson, hedge fund manager and major funding angel for the school privatizing Democrats for Education Reform, thinks there’s not enough rich, educated white folks.( Preaprez) click photo to his blog.

Arne Duncan

Arne Duncan
U.S. Secretary of Education, click photo