Truancy Approach Called Unorganized; after Policy Analysis, Schools Superintendent Wants 'Better Coordination'

Article excerpt

Byline: David C. Lipscomb, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The District's attempts to reduce truancy are too fragmented, said D.C. State Superintendent of Education Deborah A. Gist, who is calling for a more unified approach that includes greater involvement from police, schools and family services.

"I think what we need is better coordination and sharing of information and to have a consistent understanding of who owns what responsibilities," Miss Gist said. "There are pieces of work that are good, but the various groups that come into play need to be better organized."

Miss Gist said her office, which is responsible for recommending education guidelines to the D.C. State Board of Education, was analyzing the city school system to determine whether weak policy or poor enforcement has failed to reduce truancy rates.

She will collect input from school officials and parents and offer recommendations to the board in a report due in the fall.

Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee will be required to implement operating procedures based on policies enacted by the board, school officials said.

The Metropolitan Police Department said officers had picked up 5,655 students this school year, as of Tuesday. It was not clear how many were repeat truants.

D.C. schools reported 2,420 chronically truant students as of Feb. 22. That was about 5 percent of the system's students with at least 15 unexcused absences.

School board member William Lockridge agreed with Miss Gist that attendance rates can be improved by clarifying the roles of the school system and support agencies and by centralizing data systems. …