Wednesday, June 19, 2013

FROM ABSENT TO PRESENT

Our post today comes from Colin Lentz, Communications Coordinator for Youth Justice Programs at the Center for Court Innovation.

Last night, June 18th, at City Hall in New York City, the seventeen young people who make up the Youth Justice Board presented their final report, From Absent to Present: Reducing Teen Chronic Absenteeism in New York City, to an audience of city policymakers and other education, justice, and child welfare system stakeholders. Their presentation, and the report, reflected a year’s worth of work by members of the Board to understand and develop strategies for improving school attendance by teens across the city.

Members of the Youth Justice Board with Chancellor Walcott

Dennis Walcott, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, introduced the members of the Youth Justice Board, highlighting their commitment to civic engagement and their thoughtful and well-researched contributions to city efforts to support young people in attending and succeeding in school. Members of the Board then spoke about the work they had done that year researching truancy and chronic absenteeism in New York City, interviewing city officials and other experts on these issues, facilitating focus groups of teenagers with personal experience, and writing a report with recommendations for improving school attendance city-wide. We’ve included short video clips of members presenting from the event below.

In the first clip, Youth Justice Board member Steven discusses the program, its structure and function, the skills that members build during the year, and the topic members worked on this year.

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“Students miss school for many reasons, and that makes it impossible to find a single solution to the issue of chronic absenteeism that would work for all students.” In the second clip, Board member Amythest talks about the focus groups that the Youth Justice Board organized and facilitated with young people who had experience with chronic absenteeism and what she and the Board learned.

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In the third clip, Board member Dagmar gives an overview of a recommendation from the report about need for schools to use attendance data to identify those students struggling the most with chronic absenteeism to ensure they receive appropriate support and services.

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Following their presentation, Leslie Cornfeld, Chair of the Mayor’s Interagency Taskforce on Truancy,  Chronic Absenteeism, and School Engagement, and Elayna Konstan, Chief Executive Officer of the Office of Safety and Youth Development at the New York City Department of Education, each gave remarks congratulating the Youth Justice Board on creating a report with so many valuable insights. Both also indicated their commitment to bringing the report to their colleagues to inform decisions about policies and programs for addressing chronic absenteeism among New York City young people.

The event concluded with a Q&A session where members of the Board fielded questions from the audience. In response to a recommendation about school safety procedures such as metal detector clearance, Chancellor Walcott asked a challenging question about how schools could do a better job balancing the need to keep students safe with the need not to hinder their ability to get to class on time. Ms Cornfeld asked about how mentors could be used most effectively to support students attending school. The Board responded to these and other questions with answers that reflected not only how long they have spent working on chronic absenteeism among New York City youth, but also their personal investment in that issue.

The Youth Justice Board’s report, From Absent to Present: Reducing Teen Chronic Absenteeism in New York City, can be downloaded here.

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