Detroit schools 'attendance teams' combat chronic absences

Detroit schools attendance teams work to combat absenteeism

DETROIT – Chronic absenteeism has been an ongoing problem in Detroit schools. 

Officials with the Detroit Public Schools Community District claim it's starting to get more children to school every day because schools have a team of people getting to the core reason the students are repeatedly absent. 

The schools have attendance teams that connect with students and their parents. The team doesn't just get students to school, it makes an effort to fix whatever problem was preventing students from going in the first place.

"We each mentor those children," Effie Harris said.

Harris is an attendance agent at Samuel Gompers Elementary-Middle School. She said her job is to make sure children get the education they are supposed to receive. 

When a student racks up six unexcused absences, the team steps in. 

"On a day-to-day basis, we're going to those classrooms," Harris said. "We're trying to catch them in the hall just to make sure that they are in school. And if they're not in school, we want to know why."

The attendance team will call parents and make home visits to uncover what's keeping a child from school.

"If it's transportation, we make sure that we're offering solutions," Harris said. "If it's, 'I just can't get up on time,' we want to make sure we're offering solutions for that. Have an alarm clock."

"We're making certain that our kids get good night's rest," said Dwight Jones, executive director of school climate and culture. "Those are the things that are important so that they're ready in the morning and prepared for school."

Another important component, he said, is "eating healthy breakfasts, and we provide those at school for those kids that don't have time."

Samuel Gompers Elementary-Middle School's principal, Bobbie Posey Milner, said the program has decreased absences by 10 percent. It's not the only school that is seeing progress. Absenteeism across the school district dropped 8 percent last year. 

Jones said the drop in absences reduces the rate at which students drop out. 

It's a part of the Stars in Attendance Initiative. Students who show up on a regular basis are rewarded. A competition is held between the classes with a traveling trophy that is awarded each week to the class with the highest attendance. 

These attendance teams are just one way to tackle the problem of chronic absenteeism, an issue being discussed at a two-hour live town hall event at 6 p.m. 

The entire event will be live streamed on nbcnews.com/learndetroit and clickondetroit.com.

For more information on the town hall event, click here.


About the Authors:

You can watch Kimberly Gill weekdays anchoring Local 4 News at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. and streaming live at 10 p.m. on Local 4+. She's an award-winning journalist who finally called Detroit home in 2014. Kim has won Regional Emmy Awards, and was part of the team that won the National Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Newscast in 2022.