Mayor Bloomberg, Manhattan District Attorney Vance, Chief Policy Advisor Feinblatt, Police Commissioner Kelly and Schools Chancellor Walcott Announce Latest Truancy Initiative

September 3, 2013

First Engagement Center for Truancy Reduction and Public Safety will Serve as Resource to Engage Chronically Absent Students

Chronically Absent High School Students Mentored through the Truancy Task Force Program 52 Percent More Likely to Remain in School


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Chief Policy Advisor John Feinblatt, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott today announced the latest initiative in the City's truancy prevention efforts: the creation of New York City's first Engagement Center for truancy reduction and prevention. This effort is part of Mayor's Interagency Task Force on Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism & School Engagement, which is succeeding in reducing truancy amongst the city most at-risk children. Those chronically absent students mentored through the Task Force's Success Mentor Program are 52 percent more likely to remain in school. Overall, mentored students attend approximately two more weeks of school per student than those without mentors. The center, spearheaded by the Mayor's Task Force and run by the Manhattan District Attorney's office, in partnership with the Department of Education, Police Athletic League and the NYPD, will provide programs designed to maximize school engagement and success, including with data-driven best practices developed from the task force's successful three-year pilot currently in 100 city public schools. The Mayor made the announcement at the Police Athletic League in Upper Manhattan.

"We've taken major steps in the last three years to reduce chronic absenteeism by developing innovative strategies that have proven highly effective," said Mayor Bloomberg. "The opening of this Engagement Center is the next step in ensuring our children are provided with the support they need to stay in school and off the streets - for their safety and their academic futures."

"In order to keep kids out of the courtroom, we need to keep them in the classroom," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. "Since 2010, my Office and our partners in the NYPD have taken 13 violent gangs off our city's streets. Many of these gang members are teenagers who should have been in school, rather than peddling drugs or trafficking firearms. Working with my Office's Advocate to Graduate program, the new Youth Truancy Engagement Center will prevent at-risk children and teens from falling into this way of life by identifying their needs early, and matching them with the appropriate academic tutoring and resources. I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg and our partners at the NYPD, PAL, the Department of Education, and the Department of Probation for their work and commitment to this important initiative."

"We now know that chronic absenteeism is neither inevitable, nor irreparable if the right strategies are applied on time" said Chief Policy Advisor Feinblatt. "Today we are taking the lessons learned from the task force over the past three years, and applying them to law enforcement's truancy-prevention efforts. This partnership is critical because schools can't tackle this problem alone -- the causes are far too complex and varied, and the consequences too severe."

"There is no more important responsibility we bear than to protect every child's right to a safe, high-quality education," said Commissioner Kelly. "During the 2012 to 2013 school year, New York City public schools saw the lowest number of reported crimes since before the Bloomberg administration took office. There were 14 percent fewer felony crimes in schools citywide, the largest single-year drop in major crime between school years that we've experienced. In addition, arrests were down by 34 percent. Truancy enforcement is an important component of the department's overall crime-reduction efforts. Removing juveniles from the street and returning them to school decreases the likelihood that they will become either the perpetrators or victims of crime. We're confident the opening of these engagement centers will only enhance the outstanding work of NYPD School Safety Agents and police officers to provide the best possible learning environment for young people."

"We have worked collaboratively with principals, parents and staff to help improve attendance rates among students who were absent 20 days or more in our pilot program as part of the Mayor's Interagency Task Force on Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism and School Engagement," said Schools Chancellor Walcott. "This new initiative with the District Attorney's Office will help us reduce chronic absenteeism even more. We want to ensure that our students have the opportunities to excel and be prepared for college or careers."

"Keeping young probation clients engaged in school is one of the most important things we can do to help them exit the criminal justice system for good and fulfill their potential," said Department of Probation Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi. "We are proud to be a partner in the Engagement Center, which is a vital new addition to New York City's growing continuum of programs designed to provide young people with the support they need to make positive changes in their life and avoid crime and incarceration."

"This Engagement Center represents the next step in bringing NYC's truancy prevention efforts to an even broader group of kids through innovative, cross-sector partnerships," said Leslie A. Cornfeld, Chair of the Mayor's Interagency Task Force on Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism & School Engagement. The leadership of law enforcement, DOE and the Mayor's office has resulted in a multi-prong model to help keep at-risk students on track for graduation and beyond, through collaborative efforts both in school, and out."

"Truants, especially chronic truants, are at high risk of becoming involved crime, dropping out of school and facing reduced earning power in the future," said Alana Sweeny, Executive Director of the Police Athletic League. "This program will give us an opportunity to identify the root causes of the truant behavior and connect the youth to resources, supports and positive recreational activities to address the problems and reconnect them to school and community with the long term goal of graduation."

The Center, located at the Police Athletic League building in West Harlem, has staff from the Department of Education, the District Attorney's Office and the Police Athletic League, along with social workers. Academic tutors will be provided on and/or off site as well. Incoming students will be matched to specific engagement programs and services depending on need, including tutoring, mental health counseling, advocate-driven group activities like Saturday Night Lights sports programs, and school-based Success Mentors. There are multiple pathways into the Center, including from schools, the Department of Probation, NYPD, and the already successful PAL sports program for at-risk youth "Saturday Night Lights."

The Engagement Center serves as a bridge between student, school, and community and brings to the table a host of new truancy prevention strategies:

  • Using New "Early Warning" And Other Data Strategies To Reduce & Prevent Chronic Absenteeism: Center staff will have access to key student data, enabling them to monitor student' attendance and progress to get and keep them on track; and will allow students who are chronically absent in PAL's after-school sports programs to be identified for additional support.
  • Providing Each Student with a Self-Selected School-Based Success Mentor: Students choose a member of their school community to support and encourage them at school, and serve as the school contact for the Center. Mentors will be offered support and best practice tips throughout the year.
  • Assigning Each Student a Trained "Advocate" at the Center: The Advocate conducts an initial assessment, connects the student to the appropriate student supports and encourages and monitors participation; the Advocate continues to meet with and support the student all year, and collaborate with the school-based mentor to keep the student on track.
  • Increasing Parent Engagement: All parents/guardians are immediately contacted; using the DA's partnership to encourage parent participation in developing and supporting Success Action Plan. Parents will also receive training on how to monitor their child's attendance electronically.
  • Creating New Rapid Response System: The Advocate monitors attendance and contacts the student, parent, and school mentor for any absence; conversely, the Advocate calls and congratulates the student and parents when attendance and other goals are met.

The Probation Department will provide selected students on probation with a first-ever program to support school attendance for a population with above average rates of chronic absenteeism. In Manhattan, the Engagement Center will be a condition of adjustment for selected juveniles arrested for low-level crimes. It will also be a condition of probation for select juveniles on probation; and the Center, or another appropriate program, will be a prerequisite before a juvenile can be violated on the basis of truancy.

The NYPD will use the center for many chronically absent students picked up in Manhattan for truancy for proactive support to get them back on track - enabling the NYPD to strengthen its truancy-prevention efforts.

The Truancy Center is the latest in a series of successful initiatives to combat chronic absenteeism developed by the Mayor's Interagency Task Force on Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism and School Engagement. Over the past three years the task force launched a multi-pronged campaign to address the problem, the largest effort in the nation, including a core initiative, the NYC Success Mentor Corps, reaching over 8,000 at-risk students last year, and resulting in over 80,000 additional days of school attended. The model will be disseminated citywide this year, and is being instituted in other cities as well. Other task force initiatives include launching a $5 million public awareness campaign underwritten by the Ad Council and AT&T along with the creation of the city's first electronic Truancy Help Center, connecting families to needed resources and guidance through 311 or electronically.

At the task force pilot schools, large numbers of targeted chronically absent students stopped being chronically absent last year: 35 percent of elementary school students, 30 percent of middle school students and 21 percent of high school students stopped being chronically absent at the 100 pilot schools, gaining back 80,000 additional days in school.
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Marc La Vorgna/Jake Goldman

(212) 788-2958
Joan Vollero (DA Vance)

(212) 335-9400
John McCarthy
NYPD
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Erin Hughes
Education
(212) 374-5141