ALBUQUERQUE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Truancy and students dropping out of school are the identified problem in this proposed AmeriCorps project. In the New Mexico statutes and Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) policy, a student is defined as a "student in need of early intervention" at five (5) unexcused absences within a school year and as a "habitual truant" when there is an accumulation of the equivalent of ten or more unexcused absences. The New Mexico Public Education Department has defined the term dropout as "those whose school achievement, progress toward graduation, and/or preparation for employment is in serious jeopardy" and measures the dropout rate as the proportion of students who drop out without completing high school."
There are a plethora of problems that may lead to truant behavior, and truancy creates many more problems including delinquency and school dropouts. A number of studies have found that truants have low self-esteem and experience greater feelings of rejection or criticism. Research has indicated that truancy is a stepping stone to delinquent and criminal activity. Truancy can impact any student, but sub-categories such as Latino/Hispanics, children with disabilities, Native Americans, students affiliated with Juvenile Probation, and students in foster-care appear to be most vulnerable to risky delinquent behaviors associated with truancy such as drugs, alcohol, or violence.
Poor student attendance is a difficult problem to tackle. Students who are not in school are not learning or progressing. Additionally, when they have been out for long periods of time, they may disrupt the learning experience of other students as the teacher struggles to support them on missed lessons while teaching the curriculum. Truancy in some schools may result in an ineligibility to graduate or to receive credit for class attended, until the time lost to truancy is made up through a combination of detention, online course work, alternative educational programs, or summer school. This can be especially troubling for a child or youth, as failing school can lead to: social impairment if the child or youth is held back, economic impact if the child or youth drops out or cannot continue his or her education, and social/emotional impact as the cycle of failure diminishes the adolescent's self-esteem and productivity within society.
Truancy has become a major problem within Bernalillo County that negatively influences the future of our youth and costs taxpayers thousands of dollars. With daily absentee rates as high as 10 percent in some schools, it is not surprising that truancy has become a major concern for school administrators, central office administrators, school board members and legislators. This concern is shared with local governmental agencies and the community and thus has been a catalyst in formulating a county taskforce on truancy.
The truancy taskforce is comprised of representatives from the Albuquerque Public Schools; APS school, city, and county law enforcement; Children, Youth and Families Department; Bernalillo County District Attorney; Children's Protective Services; Juvenile Probation and NM Public Education Department. A common understanding among taskforce members is that truancy is a key risk factor beginning a lifetime of problems. Students who fall behind in their school work, exhibit delinquent behaviors, become disengaged, eventually dropout of school. For many truants, dropping out is easier than catching up.