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TX: School district tackles truancy

 

A student and his father in Fort Worth, Texas, wait to hear from a judge if they will be fined for the youth's repeat truancy. 

Summary: Truancy played a big role in the dropout rate in this Texas school district. But with a coordinated, preventive effort in truancy intervention, this problem is on the decline and the district expects even more improvement in the future.

 


Before you can keep students from dropping out, you have to get them to "drop in"—in other words, to attend school regularly. That's why the Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD) in Fort Worth, Texas, decided that avoiding truancy is essential to preventing dropouts.

The district launched the Comprehensive Truancy Intervention Program in April 2001. Since then, the number of truancy cases filed by FWISD dropped by 1,000 between the 2000–2003 and 2003–2004 school years while attendance climbed by nine percent, the biggest gain in six years. So far, statistics indicate FWISD will realize even greater improvements during the current school year.

The district revamped its approach to truancy in collaboration with the county district attorney's office and juvenile probation department, City of Fort

District characteristics
Name: Fort Worth ISD
State: TX
Type: Suburban
Grades: K–12
Enrollment: 79,576
Students per teacher: 16.8

Enrollment characteristics
Economically disadvantaged: 71.6%
English language learners: 26.9%
Students with disabilities: 9.3%
White: 16.9%
Black: 27.2%
Hispanic: 54.0%
Asian/Pacific Islander: 1.7%
American Indian/Alaska Native: 0.2%
Other: n.a.
Source: SchoolMatters.com
Worth and its police department, mental health and social service providers, and other agencies.

Before the program was in place, judicial oversight of truancy cases was scattered among justice of the peace courts. This approach produced inconsistent results and did little to address the underlying causes of truancy.

The program takes a preventive rather than punitive approach to the problem. Truant students and their parents are educated about the legal and social consequences of truancy by an assistant district attorney. If truancy continues, parents and students attend a conference at school, where school staff and the assistant district attorney review the law and discuss ways to remove any barriers that are preventing students from attending school. The district helps truant students make up missing credits when they return to school.

As a last resort, students and parents must appear at a municipal court devoted solely to truancy, where they might face fines or sentences of community service.

The multifaceted program was the first of its kind in Texas and has become a model for the state.

School board member Jean McClung was the program's original champion. "One of my big, big projects was that I've always wanted to make sure kids were in school," she said. "What we had was not working, and I wanted to make it better."

Visit the Fort Worth Independent School District web site for more information.

Contact

Delena Doyle
Attendance Control Coordinator
Fort Worth Independent School District
Forth Worth, TX zip 
Phone: (817) 871-3192
Email: ddoyl@ftworthisd.tenet.edu

 


Posted: November 17, 2004

©2004 Center for Public Education

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