Assessing School Attendance Problems and Truancy Intervention in Maryland: A Synthesis of Evidence from Baltimore City and the Lower Eastern Shore - PDF

Please download to get full document.

View again

of 26
All materials on our website are shared by users. If you have any questions about copyright issues, please report us to resolve them. We are always happy to assist you.
Information Report
Category:

Internet

Published:

Views: 4 | Pages: 26

Extension: PDF | Download: 0

Share
Related documents
Description
Assessing School Attendance Problems and Truancy Intervention in Maryland: A Synthesis of Evidence from Baltimore City and the Lower Eastern Shore Administrative Office of the Courts State Justice Institute
Transcript
Assessing School Attendance Problems and Truancy Intervention in Maryland: A Synthesis of Evidence from Baltimore City and the Lower Eastern Shore Administrative Office of the Courts State Justice Institute grant number SJI-08-N-086 December 2011 Acknowledgements This report was prepared by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) in collaboration with faculty and staff at the University of Maryland-College Park s Institute for Governmental Service and Research (IGSR). Dr. C. David Crumpton of the AOC, Dr. Jeanne E. Bilanin of IGSR and Dr. Jamie L. Walter of AOC are authors of this report. Questions may be directed to Diane Pawlowicz, Executive Director, Court Research and Development, Administrative Office of the Courts at This research was funded in part by the AOC and through State Justice Institute grant number SJI-08-N-086. ii Table of Contents Acknowledgements... ii Table of Contents... iii Executive Summary... 1 Introduction and Overview... 6 An Examination of Truancy and Truancy Intervention in Maryland... 6 The Challenge of Defining Truancy... 7 Truancy as a Societal Problem... 8 Consequences of Truancy... 9 Promising Programmatic Elements The Interest of the Maryland Judiciary in Truancy and Truancy Intervention The Context of Truancy in Maryland Overview Snapshot of the Maryland Public School System School Absenteeism and the Extent of Truancy in Maryland The Legal Framework of Truancy in Maryland Defining Truancy Legal Consequences of Truancy Educational, Economic and Other Impacts and Correlates of Truancy in Maryland Instruction and School Governance Other Correlates of Truancy Cost Consequences of Truancy Qualitative Evidence Regarding Truancy and Truancy Intervention Overview Sources of Information Qualitative Findings School Responses to Truancy Review of School Responses Other Observers of School Attendance Problems in Baltimore City Introduction Baltimore Students: Mediating About Reducing Truancy (BSMART) Background and Overview Program Description Description of BSMART Students Program Operations Collaboration with Schools Process Analysis Program Outcome Analysis Conclusions Truancy Court Program (TCP) iii Background and Overview Evaluation Methodology Process Evaluation Outcome Evaluation Truancy Reduction Pilot Program (TRPP) Background and Overview Evaluation Methodology Summary of Findings Outcomes Analysis Recap of School and Juvenile Justice Outcomes Conclusions An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Role of the Judiciary in Responding to Truancy Evidence of the Problem and Responses to the Problem Nationally Review of the Maryland Evidence A Conceptual Framework for Responding to the Problem Community, Neighborhood and School Families Individual Children References iv Executive Summary The Maryland Judiciary shares responsibility with Maryland s Executive Branch and local school systems in enforcing the state s mandatory school attendance and truancy laws. An innovation to address the truancy issue was introduced in 2004 when the General Assembly authorized the establishment of the Truancy Reduction Pilot Program (TRPP) in the First Judicial Circuit comprised of four counties located on Maryland s Lower Eastern Shore. The authorizing legislation also required the Judiciary to perform an evaluation of the program. This initiative stimulated an intensive process of policy and program analysis by the Judiciary concerning the most appropriate, efficient and effective roles of courts and judges in responding to truancy. This effort was given additional impetus as the result of the State Justice Institute s (SJI) award of a grant to the Judiciary in Under the SJI grant, the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) evaluated three alternative approaches to truancy intervention in Baltimore City and the First Judicial Circuit (including TRPP), assessed the context of truancy in Baltimore City and the First Judicial Circuit and synthesized the findings from this research to support an assessment of the school attendance and truancy intervention policy and program framework from the perspective of the Judiciary. The current report represents this synthesis. The Maryland programs discussed in this report represent a continuum of court involvement, with no judicial presence in BSMART, participation of judges in an unofficial capacity in TCP, and judges exercising their full authority in TRPP. Process and outcome evaluations provide some level of support for continuing the BSMART, TCP, and TRPP interventions. Research has shown that truancy is related to a number of negative social and behavioral outcomes, including poor school performance, high dropout rates, and increased involvement in juvenile and adult criminal behavior. Truancy is typically caused by factors from four levels: the individual, the family, the school, and the neighborhood and community. Recommended approaches to reducing truancy emphasize family involvement, interagency collaboration, provision of services that address the needs of students and their families, and incentives and sanctions. 1 The contextual analysis provided documentation of the levels of truancy in school districts across Maryland and the relationship of truancy levels to other variables. Qualitative information provided by respondents involved in school attendance issues in the study jurisdictions mirrored the national perspective that truancy is related to a complex, multi-level set of factors and requires holistic solutions. Statewide in Maryland, 2.25% of students (or roughly 20,000 students) were identified as habitually truant during the school year because they were absent without a valid excuse for more than 20% of school days. The rate of habitual truancy varies by jurisdiction. Among the jurisdictions that are the focus of this report, the counties on the Lower Eastern Shore (Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester) have habitual truancy rates ranging from 0.29% to 1.49%, whereas Baltimore City has a habitual truancy rate of 8.00%. Although the overall rates for the counties on the Lower Eastern Shore are relatively low, in three of the four counties, truancy rates in individual schools exceeded the state average. Analysis of data across Maryland school systems revealed the following relationships between truancy and other variables: strong positive correlations between rates of habitual truancy and dropout rates, African American students as a percentage of school enrollment, special education students as a percentage of school enrollment, and teen birth rates strong negative correlations between rates of habitual truancy and white students as a percentage of school enrollment and percentages of adults in the community who are high school graduates moderate positive correlation between rates of habitual truancy and poverty rates weak positive correlation between rates of habitual truancy and percent of children living in poverty weak negative correlation between rates of habitual truancy and median household incomes no significant correlation between rates of habitual truancy and unemployment rates or rates of referrals for juvenile delinquency 2 With a few exceptions, Baltimore City and the counties on the Lower Eastern Shore rank among the highest in the state in those variables for which positive correlations with truancy were found (e.g., dropout rates, poverty levels, and teen birth rates) and among the lowest in the state in those variables that have negative correlations with truancy (e.g., median household income and high school completion rates). Knowledgeable informants, including parents, school officials, legal officials, and service providers, identified the following factors as contributing to truancy problems in the five study jurisdictions: impact of poverty, value placed on education, individual needs of children, inadequate monitoring, transportation challenges, safety, and family difficulties, While acknowledging the need to hold parents accountable, respondents generally favored non-punitive solutions to truancy that address the needs of families. The Dropout Prevention Resource Guide published by the Maryland State Department of Education identifies 265 initiatives in Maryland schools that address many of the issues that can impact school attendance. These initiatives include alternative programs, alternative school schedules, alternative schools, attendance accountability, clinical interventions, community service, enhanced counseling, graduation preparation, holistic intervention, justice system coordination, life skill development, mentoring, student parenting, specialized staff, tutoring. The Dropout Prevention Resource Guide does not present school attendance as a central issue to be addressed in reducing dropouts, however, and MSDE does not appear to have a policy or operating focus on truancy and school attendance problems. The three Maryland programs that were evaluated are Baltimore Students: Mediating About Reducing Truancy (BSMART), Truancy Court Program (TCP) and Truancy Reduction Pilot Program (TRPP). BSMART is operated by the University of Maryland School of Law s Center for Dispute Resolution in conjunction with Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS). TCP is operated by the University of Baltimore School of Law s Center for Families, Children and the Courts (CFCC) in conjunction with BCPSS. TRPP evaluated in these reports are operated in the Circuit Courts for Dorchester County, Somerset County, Wicomico County and Worcester County. These programs reflect the national literature concerning the intent and design of truancy interventions. They have a problem-solving orientation, involve both parents and students, and are progressive responses involving interagency collaboration. These programs also represent a continuum of court involvement, with no judicial presence in BSMART, 3 participation of judges in an unofficial capacity in TCP, and judges exercising their full authority in TRPP. The BSMART intervention is a one-time voluntary, confidential mediation offered by C- DRUM that involves teachers and parents of students who are beginning to show attendance problems. The program is directed mainly at elementary school students. TCP is a voluntary, 10-week, in-school intervention program for elementary and middle school students who have between 5 and 20 unexcused absences during the prior two grading periods A team comprising CFCC staff, school staff, and volunteer judges meets with the students on a weekly basis, assesses student and family need, and provides mentoring, counseling, and service referrals. TRPP is a court-based program that provides a streamlined procedure for school systems to initiate court action and substitutes criminal offenses with civil violations. The process administered by the juvenile court includes a family assessment, court orders for community services to address problems contributing to truancy, and monitoring of the child s progress for several months. Individuals involved in planning and delivering the three subject interventions had generally positive appraisals of the programs. Parent/guardian and student participants in BSMART and TCP also were generally positive about their experiences. (The evaluation of TRPP did not include interviews or surveys of parents/guardians or students.) One common problem for BSMART and TCP was maintaining accurate contact information for many of the families. The evaluations found limited evidence that the three programs are effective in reducing absenteeism. For BSMART, attendance improved for 61% of the referrals who attended mediation and 63% of the cases that were referred to BSMART but did not attend mediation. There was no significant statistical difference in the change in absentee rate between referrals who attended mediation and those who did not. These findings suggest that the mediation component of BSMART is not the intervention s critical ingredient. For TCP, there was no significant statistical difference in attendance between participants and a comparison group of non-participants. Participants that graduated from TCP had improved attendance when compared to non-participants and participants that did not graduate. Improvements in attendance were seen 4 in TRPP program completers as compared to non-completers, but motivational differences rather than program effects could be the causal factor. The results summarized above provide some support for continuing the BSMART, TCP, and TRPP interventions. Ideally, expansion of these programs or their use as models would be predicated on more definitive evidence. Additional data and rigorous evaluation designs are needed to produce such evidence. Dimensions of analysis associated with the problem of truancy can be identified at the state system level, the community level, the family level and the individual student level. Policies and programs intended to ameliorate school attendance problems and truancy should take into account critical factors within each of these levels of analysis. Interventions should be designed with the following considerations in mind: Holistic approach to student needs. Family involvement Early, progressive and continuous intervention Inter-organizational collaboration and cooperation Accountability The Judiciary should consider continuing its support for the two external programs of BSMART and TCP with the idea of improving the operation of these programs and conducting more rigorous evaluation of program effectiveness. In addition to investing in BSMART and TCP, the Judiciary could explore other interventions and test these approaches in select jurisdictions that incorporate the characteristics described above. The State of Maryland could exercise additional control over truancy policy by mandating collaboration among public agencies in truancy reduction efforts and penalizing jurisdictions that fail to address high levels of truancy. The State also could make funding available for jurisdictions to implement proven truancy reduction programs. 5 Introduction and Overview An Examination of Truancy and Truancy Intervention in Maryland A growing body of literature has demonstrated the relationship between truancy and a number of negative social and behavioral outcomes, including increased involvement in juvenile and adult criminal behavior. In response to the demonstrated link between truancy and undesirable social outcomes, in recent decades a wide variety of truancy/school attendance interventions have been introduced throughout the United States. Among these interventions are programs designed to directly or indirectly involve courts and judges in responding to truancy. To date there has been very little empirical assessment of such truancy reduction intervention programs (Daining, 2007). This report is part of a series of reports intended to bridge that gap through evaluations of truancy interventions, a review of the context of truancy in Maryland and a synthesis of research findings. The first report in the series considered an evaluation of the Truancy Reduction Pilot Program (TRPP), a court-based truancy reduction intervention in the juvenile courts of the First Judicial Circuit of Maryland. A second report documented an evaluation of the school-based Baltimore City Truancy Court Program (TCP). The third report addressed Baltimore Students: Mediation about Truancy Reduction (B-SMART), a mediation program that works with students, parents, and schools to improve communication and address factors that may be contributing to student truancy. Each program s impact on students academic performance and attendance, and court-involvement where appropriate, was also considered. The fourth report, A Contextual Analysis: Truancy in Baltimore City and the First judicial Circuit, analyzed the social, economic and other correlates and indicators of truancy in Maryland. The current report represents a synthesis of findings included in the other four reports and additional relevant information. Whereas TRPP is operated by the Maryland Judiciary, TCP is operated by the Center for Families, Children, and the Courts at the University of Baltimore School of Law, and B-SMART is operated by the Center for Dispute Resolution at the University of Maryland School of Law. The results from the evaluations of these three programs combined with the contextual analysis and the synthesis report will inform the future role of the Maryland Judiciary in truancy intervention. Due to the relationship among the evaluations and their shared objective, they draw 6 heavily from the same literature. Since the Judiciary s 2008 TRPP evaluation report to the Maryland General Assembly included a review of relevant literature, this report will frequently cite that report and its sources. 1 The evaluation of three truancy intervention programs was conducted by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) in collaboration with state universities. The University of Maryland School of Social Work led the evaluation of TRPP and BSMART, and preparation of the contextual analysis, while the University of Maryland-College Park, Institute for Governmental Service and Research (IGSR) evaluated TCP and provided data analysis for BSMART. The researchers consulted on a regular basis to ensure consistent evaluation methodology across the studies. AOC staff edited the reports and performed additional data analysis. The Challenge of Defining Truancy The study of truancy in the United States has proven to be difficult for researchers. Problems associated with the study of truancy begin with the definition of truancy. Definitions of school attendance, including what constitutes truancy, vary widely across the United States and even within jurisdictions. Variation in terminology and the meaning of terms impacts the ability of researchers to describe and make comparisons among patterns of school attendance problems across the country. Data may refer to attendance, absence, absenteeism, chronic absenteeism, truancy, truant, habitual truancy, habitual truant, school refusal, compulsory school attendance, and other terms meant to elucidate the field, often adding confusion. Although attempts have been made to establish uniformity in definition through federal and state government action, ambiguity regarding these definitions remains, frustrating the efforts of policy-makers, administrators and researchers. Inferences drawn from existing research indicate that variations in definitions associated with school attendance problems and truancy may be at least partially associated with the purposes of the organizations that promulgate the definitions. While school administrators in a jurisdiction may focus on reducing absenteeism, juvenile authorities in the same jurisdiction may focus on acting on their statutory mandate to enforce truancy laws (Daining, 2007). 1 Daining, C., Bryant, V., & Crumpton, C.D. (2008). An evaluation of the Truancy Reduction Pilot Program of the First Judicial Circuit of Maryland. Annapolis, MD: Maryland Judiciary, Administrative Office of the Courts. 7 In Maryland, truancy is defined as a student who is absent without lawful cause from the attendance for a school day or portion of it (Code of Md. Regs. 13A B). Truancy rises to habitual truancy if the student is unlawfully absent from school a number of days or portion of days in excess of 20 percent of the school days within a marking period, semester, or year (Code of Md. Regs. 13A C). As will be discussed elsewhere in this report, definitions of absence and habitual truancy vary, as the State grants local school boards discretion in defining school attendance policies and in defining habitual truancy in a more stringent manner (see Code of Md. Regs. 13A A and C). Truancy as a Societal Problem The causes of truancy are multilayered and highly correlated; a child s decision to not attend school is influenced by a number of personal and environm
Recommended
View more...
We Need Your Support
Thank you for visiting our website and your interest in our free products and services. We are nonprofit website to share and download documents. To the running of this website, we need your help to support us.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support.

No, Thanks