Rochester, N.Y. – The City School District is pushing mandatory kindergarten attendance. Superintendent Appointee Bolgen Vargas said chronic truancy is one reason the district has the worst graduation rate among the state’s cities, saying 4,000 students are absent every day.
Vargas says students learn behaviors at a young age. About 400 kindergartners districtwide have missed 20 days or more of school this year.
“For too many years we have seen the problem of truancy to be at the high school level, but the fact is truancy begins at a very early age,” Vargas said.
At School #4, about 14 percent of kindergartners are absent every day.
“There are just some families, who for whatever reason, don’t value the fact attendance is very important,” said Assistant Principal Lisa Whitlow. “It lays the foundation for reading and math and for writing. What they learn in kindergarten truly does affect the rest of their academic life.”
Assemblyman David Gantt and State Senator Joe Robach are sponsoring a bill that would make kindergarten attendance mandatory only for RCSD students. Compulsory attendance would make it easier for school officials to report chronically absent to students to child protective services. The law would also send a message to parents.
“We make our phone calls and send letters home but if they’re not here we can’t help them,” said School #4 kindergarten teacher Amanda Williams. “So we’re really asking the parents to step up and get them to school every day.”