Cranston schools continue battle against chronic absenteeism


At the April 8 School Committee work session, Cranston Schools Superintendent Dr. Judith Lundsten announced the rollout of a new initiative to target chronic absenteeism.

“We are starting very small because there are many moving parts and we want to be sure that it is successful. After we finish this year, we will think about how we will expand going forward,” said Dr. Rosemary Burns, the district’s data coordinator. “The idea for this project came from Jim Dillon, our executive director of student information systems and data management. Jim heard about this intervention first-hand at a national conference from the Kissimmee, Fla., school district - and learned, from their experience, how effective it was in improving attendance. We were excited by this good news and feel it is something we can do.”

“We will be setting up robo-calls from schools with lists of students obtained from the principals,” Lundsten said.

The initiative started the Monday after April vacation at the NEL/CPS Construction and Career Academy and at Gladstone Elementary.

The calls from the academy will be going out to 30 homes, and as of yet, no families have opted out. The message will say “Good morning. School starts at the Construction and Career Academy in one hour. Your teachers hope to see you there on time. Thank you,” according to Dennis Curran, the school’s executive director. Gladstone has approximately 40 households signed up.

After the program has run for 90 days, school department psychologist Dr. Michael Weiler will analyze the data.

“Our ultimate goal is to reduce chronic absences among our students. Chronic absence is when students are absent 10 percent of the days that school is in session,” Burns said. “The students selected for the morning wake-up calls pilot include those who have been absent 13-plus days of school this year. We are sending the calls to a percentage of students who fit this criteria so we can compare this year’s pilot outcomes among those who are getting the calls and those who do not. This will help us tremendously tweaking how we introduce it to more schools next year.


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I find it hard to believe that the cause of chronic school absence is a lack of an alarm clock.

Friday, May 22, 2015