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

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Attendance decline severe district needs to hire more attendance officers

Associate Superintendent Will Keresztes said, "he expects a total of 12 attendance teachers to be on staff in the fall" in a Buffalo News story today about the declining attendance rates in the Buffalo Schools. 

Yet combating six years of educational neglect after the district laid-off 15 attendance officers in 2005, is going to take more manpower now to catch up in order to address an attendance problem that has become grossly severe
Superintendent Keresztes should consider creating a position of director of attendance on his immediate staff working with  two supervisors of attendance that includes a bilingual one. 
Ideally, if there are about 61 schools, a professional cadre of at least 33 attendance officers should be distributed throughout the elementary and high schools in the district, including the schools designated persistently lower performing ones. And there should be an attendance officer present in each school building with a fully staffed office as it used to exist in the high schools. Those offices still exist manned by attendance clerical staff and should immediately house the attendance officers again. 
Also, the idea of housing the attendance teachers outside the schools isolated from the students in a separate building as a group is an approach the district started in 2004. It's not the best approach prevents attendance officers from developing relationships with students and building staff.  
Also, the presence of an attendance officers deters truancy especially in the elementary schools, compelling parents to comply with the Compulsory Education Law. Moreover, students seeing an attendance teacher in the building deters truant behavior as well.
The attendance officers on the AIM team and the police officers worked in the high school attendance offices. A social worker should be housed in the same office as the attendance officer both working together but having separate professional duties. 
When the duties of an attendance officer conflicts with helping students and their families with their psycho-social problems, a social worker will be better equipped to do it particularly if the officer has to take steps against the parent  for educational neglect or to arrest the student for truancy. 
Whereas a social worker is professionally trained to focus on the long term intervention strategies the family needs to help them with problems that may be affecting school attendance.
The district now is blaming the attendance officers laid-off, alleging the model didn't work and changing their duties. But if the data that currently shows declining attendance rates from 2007 to 2009 reflects the years in which the attendance officers were laid off from 2005 through 2011, it may show a relationship between the lack of attendance officers during this period and declining attendance rates in the district. 
However, the District consultant Hedy Chang data analysis focused exclusively on 2009-2010 school year while the Buffalo Teachers Federation data on 2007-2009, targeting K-6th grades.
What catapulted the severe attendance problem in the first place was the district wrongfully laid-off 15 attendance officers in August 2005, and did not have a plan in place to address attendance except increasing the number of police resource officers who have a role to play but they are not authorized under section 3213 to arrest students for truancy without the presence of an attendance officer. They have put the cart before the horse and it's not working and the police presence increased in the schools while teachers are laid-off.
So in order to continue to abdicate its responsibility to the wrongfully laid off attendance officers not reinstating them with back pay, their approach recently is saying they were not effective before so district officials changed their duties, recalling 
them while blaming them for the current state of declining attendance rates in the Buffalo Schools.

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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