Rochester, N.Y. – Over the past year, Superintendent Bolgen Vargas has made truancy a top issue.
After putting in place strict classroom-level attendance-taking procedures, Vargas has a better handle on the problem. He checks a computer program several times a day that tells him exactly how many students are in each school and classroom. He can even tell which teachers didn’t take attendance.
The news is not good. The school year is about a third of the way finished and thousands of students have missed more than a week of class.
Here are the district’s attendance figures to date this school year for the district’s approximately 29,900 students.
• One in two students (15,330) has missed 3 or more days.
• One in three students (10,404) has missed 5 or more days.
• One in six students (4,690) has missed 10 or more days.
• One in 10 students (2,706) has missed 15 or more days.
More than 1,000 students have been absent more than half the school days. One hundred and forty students have never shown up.
“We want to build a culture in this community and this district that coming to school is the first step for academic success,” said Vargas.
Vargas and his staff will be knocking on doors of truant students on Thursday.
The state legislature recently passed a law that was signed by the governor mandating kindergarten for Rochester students who enroll. Vargas says this gives the district an added tool to compel attendance. The district calls child protective services as a last resort. Last school year, 400 kindergartners missed 20 days of school or more.
“We have been talking about improving the graduation rate. We are talking about what is it that is going to get us there?” said Vargas. “And I will tell you, that one thing is – it begins with student attendance in school daily.”