Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Attendance Court

I spent the afternoon at an East Harlem middle school sitting in on one of our newest experiments: an attendance court designed to combat truancy.   I left feeling enormously proud. Susanna, with help from Jackie, Dory, Chris, Judge Koretz and others, has managed to get a complicated undertaking up and running in remarkable time.  The school administrators that I talked with clearly view the attendance court as a valuable tool in creating a productive learning environment in the school.   And if the half dozen cases I witnessed are any indication, the program seems to be making an impact on participants' attendance.  The challenge these cases present is an altogether unsurprising one: truancy is just the tip of the iceberg in many of the families I saw today.  Domestic violence, divorce, mental illness, joblessness are just a few of the problems that these kids and their parents are facing.   While I'm not sure we (or anybody else) has the answer to these kinds of issues, I do feel like we have just begin to explore the potential of the attendance court model to make a difference in students' lives.