(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Ralph Caputo and Mila Jasey to tackle student absenteeism in public schools received final legislative approval Thursday and now heads to the governor’s desk.
“Chronic absenteeism can lead to academic setbacks, that if not addressed swiftly and properly, can have lasting consequences for these students,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Developing a corrective action plan – that involves parents – to identify and address the reasons why students are not going to school, can help get these students back on track before it is too late.”
“Chronic absenteeism creates major academic challenges for students, teachers and school administration, and is a gateway to countless challenges later in life for those students who suffer the negative effects of missing school,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “Having a plan in place to tackle the problem head on, and involving parents in the process, can help reduce any potential for conflict and help students who may have been falling behind refocus on their studies.”
“If students are not in school, they are not learning,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “There are many reasons why students might be skipping school. It is important that school administrators spring into action and work with parents to identify any underlying issues and get these students back on track.”
The bill (A-2192) would require that, if 10 percent or more of the students enrolled in a public school are chronically absent, the school must develop a corrective action plan to improve absenteeism rates. The bill requires that the plan include, but need not be limited to:
· identifying problems and barriers to school attendance;
· developing recommendations to address those problems and barriers;
· outlining communication strategies to educate parents on the importance of school attendance;
· establishing protocols on informing and engaging parents when a child begins to show a pattern of absences; and
· reviewing school policies to ensure that they support improved school attendance.
“Repeat absences often signal troubles that go beyond school,” said Vainieri Huttle. “Rather than ignore this, we need to tackle it head on so all students can benefit from a thorough education.”
The bill would require that in developing the corrective action plan, the school must solicit input from parents through multiple means, including through the administration of a survey, engaging with the school’s parent organization, and, if the school does not have a parent organization, holding a public meeting to provide parents with the opportunity to provide input.
The bill would require the school to present its corrective action plan to the board of education. The school would annually review and revise the plan, and present the revisions to the board, until the percentage of students who are chronically absent is less than 10 percent.
The bill would also require the Commissioner of Education to include data on the number and percentage of students who were chronically absent, including the number and percentage of students who were chronically absent disaggregated by multiple student subgroups to be determined by the Commissioner of Education, and the number and percentage of students who received a disciplinary suspension on School Report Cards. The bill would also direct the commissioner to review the chronic absenteeism rates of each school and school district annually, and report on the rates to the State Board of Education.
The bill was approved 69-0 by the Assembly and 36-0 by the Senate.