When Liz Duvall, principal of Central Elementary school, looks at a list students who are chronically late or absent from school, she notices a concerning trend: Her youngest students, kindergartners and first graders, make up the bulk of those who miss class most often.
Even with the list, however, there’s no way for Duvall to understand all the barriers keeping students out.
She can’t see that a 7-year-old’s mom works the third shift, so getting to school means a trolley ride, a bus transfer and a 15-minute walk. Or that another 6-year-old needs to wait for a ride from grandma, and by the time she corrals him and his two older brothers, they’re inevitably late for school.
Knowing those things requires someone to invest the time to look into it. But under a new pilot program being rolled out at Central and two other campuses, that’s exactly what would happen.
As part of the program, James Kenyon, a student from Point Loma Nazarene University, completes a social work internship at Central by helping school staff dig into chronic absenteeism.
Earlier this school year, Duvall, Kenyon and Central staff created a list of students who missed school most often. That team treats each student’s situation as a case to be unpacked, meeting weekly to talk about how the student is doing and identifying which need immediate intervention.
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From my experience, launching a child into academics is pretty much like launching a rocket into space successfully. The analogy works. Why? Because it takes care, engineering, testing, and a bunch of plan "b's". What? Yes. Plan "b's" are what could be called...wait for it....patience. Children must go through the required phases of initial life. Suffice it to say, if you haven't been a full time parent, you have no clue. Reading about the experience would help you to understand. Actually experiencing birth to 4 years old?... well, Mission Control would validate the same variables. So, when someone actually talks about the initial years in a real academic environment, its like someone has nearly landed on the moon! When children get "launched" appropriately, they stay "in orbit". That is to say, the children "stay the course" and do remarkably well past high school graduation. Children are highly dependent on what parents do FOR them.
There is no surrogate. There is no replacement corps. If the children do not get "launched" they...ahem... do not get launched. This is "cross cultural". This is where color just doesn't count. This is where culture doesn't count. But, unfortunately, it is where budget counts. Time is money. When mommy/daddy can't put in the time to "launch" THE KID, well, the kid either doesn't launch as well, or worse, doesn't launch at all. How do we help? How does the system help? Unless you want to take these kids home with you, there is NOTHING the SYSTEM can do. The system can assist. The system can point the direction. But, only an intensive, caring, consistent, and long term program can help. If your kid can put sounds and letters together at 3 or 4 years old, that kid has a chance at Harvard. If not, Burger Palace, may their destination.
Reading and writing and speaking are essential in ANY society. And that comes from the home, not the school. Mommy, Daddy, Granny, Grandpa, Auntie Mame must promote the child. The school only furthers what is already happening in the home. Success is the prerogative is the home. That is the statement that is missing in the current "ed" debate. If it ain't happenin' at home, ....it ain't happenin.