For Immediate Release
April 14, 2015
BUFFALO, NY – As classes resumed and minds were re-engaged this week following Spring Recess, the Buffalo Public Schools, unfortunately, were lacking in a core component of the community education process – a sufficient number of students. The struggle to raise BPS attendance levels is widely known. But, how bad is the problem? How do low attendance and truancy affect student performance? What more can be done?
“Getting There: Improving Attendance in the Buffalo Public Schools,” a unique local research report released today by the Open Buffalo Innovation Lab, answers these questions and gives up-to-date context to Buffalo’s attendance discussion. More importantly, the report, written by Partnership for the Public Good, offers evidence-based proposals to turn this negative trend around.
(Find the full report online here.)
In Buffalo, the combined Average Daily Attendance (ADA) for elementary and secondary schools fell from 91% in 2002-2003 to 88% in 2013-2014. The figures for chronic and severe absence are even more telling. In the 2013-2014 school year, 43% of BPS students were chronically or severely absent, meaning they missed more than 10% of the school year – 18 or more days. Fourteen percent were severely absent – missing more than 7 weeks of school.
Several difficult issues contribute to the low attendance in Buffalo, including poverty, segregation, mental and physical health challenges, access to transportation, and problems with school climate and student engagement. Partnership for the Public Good Co-Director Sam Magavern said, “As with so many school issues, the concentrated poverty that affects so many families is the biggest concern. It makes every aspect of education more challenging, starting with attendance.”
Authors of the “Getting There” report suggest a multitude of strategies that BPS and the community can use to increase attendance numbers and student success in Buffalo. These suggestions include:
- Increasing number of attendance teachers in BPS to at least one full time staff per school;
- Fully staffing Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (“PBIS”) teams throughout the district to increase support to students and families and identify and address the root causes of absenteeism;
- Expanding Ready Freddy to all elementary schools and tracking the attendance before and after the program is implemented to evaluate how well it works;
- Improving accessibility of transportation to and from school by expanding the “walking school bus” program and reforming the current arrangements with Niagara Frontier Transit Authority (“NFTA”) for student access to public transit;
- Improving school climate by increasing the emphasis on Social-Emotional Learning (“SEL”) and incorporating SEL into all academic programs; and
- Ensuring full implementation of restorative justice practices at all schools and promptly providing training in restorative practices for all school staff.
Open Buffalo is a civic initiative to make major, long-term improvements in justice and equity; it is an unprecedented collaboration among a diverse group of partners; and it is one of three projects in the nation chosen for the Open Places Initiative of the Open Society Foundations.
By building Buffalo’s capacity to generate new ideas, do original research, draw more effectively on local and national best practices, share information more broadly, and draft new laws and policies, the Innovation Lab is one of Open Buffalo’s key initiatives to boost social justice crusades in the Queen City.
The Partnership for the Public Good (PPG) builds a more just, sustainable, and culturally vibrant community through action-oriented research, policy development, and citizen engagement. PPG is a core partner in the Open Buffalo collaborative, and a major contributor to the Innovation Lab.
For more information on the “Getting There” report, please contact Sam Magavern, Co-Director of Partnership for the Public Good, at (716) 852-4191, ext. 117, or firstname.lastname@example.org.