THE SCHOOL BOARD OF BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA OFFICE OF THE SUPERINTENDENT DR. FRANK TILL SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS

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1 THE SCHOOL BOARD OF BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA OFFICE OF THE SUPERINTENDENT DR. FRANK TILL SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS Telephone: (954) Facsimile: (954) March 6, 2001 TO: FROM: VIA: SUBJECT: School Board Members Katherine Blasik, Ph.D., Executive Director Office of Research and Evaluation Frank Till Superintendent of Schools BROWARD TRUANCY INTERVENTION PROGRAM (BTIP) OPERATIONAL STATUS REPORT Attached is the status report for the Broward Truancy Intervention Program (BTIP). BTIP is a partnership between Broward County Public Schools and the State Attorney s Office (SAO) designed to reduce truancy by holding parents legally accountable for getting their child to school on a regular basis. BTIP consists of a series of letters and conferences with parents and guardians, school officials, and SAO representatives notifying them of Florida Statute (7)(a) mandating school attendance and warning them of potential criminal prosecution by the SAO for noncompliance. This report provides an update to the recommendations made in the previous status report (August 2000), outlines the current BTIP model, addresses the impact of centralizing certain BTIP functions, and examines the Miami-Dade County Truancy Intervention Program model. Findings revealed that the recommendations made in the previous status report have been met. BTIP procedures are being implemented in a more consistent and timely manner across the district and BTIP notification functions are undergoing automation to further improve program consistency. Follow-up recommendations have been made to continue to align BTIP and district goals. A districtwide analysis of unexcused absences will be conducted following the end of the school year and will contain an analysis of the impact of BTIP on the number of unexcused absences at the elementary level. If you have any questions or comments regarding this report, please contact Dr. Katherine Blasik, Executive Director, Office of Research and Evaluation at FT/KAB/DWV: tbm Attachment cc: Senior Management Area Directors Elementary Principals

2 Dr. Frank Till Superintendent of Schools BROWARD TRUANCY INTERVENTION PROGRAM (BTIP) OPERATIONAL STATUS REPORT The School Board of Broward County, Florida Katherine Blasik, Ph.D. Executive Director, Office of Research and Evaluation Paul D. Eichner, Esq., Chairperson Dr. Robert D. Parks, Vice Chairperson Carole L. Andrews Judie S. Budnick Darla L. Carter Beverly A. Gallagher Stephanie Arma Kraft, Esq. Lois Wexler Benjamin J. Williams February 2001 Evaluator: W. F. Younkin, Ph.D., Educational Instruction Systems, Inc. Dean Vaughan, Research and Evaluation

3 Broward Truancy Intervention Program (BTIP) TABLE OF CONTENTS I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY i II. INTRODUCTION 1 Literature Review 2 Legal and Policy Background 3 BTIP Procedures 5 Cost Impact 6 Purpose Of The Operational Status Report 6 III. METHODOLOGY 7 IV. RESULTS 7 Staff Interviews 7 State Attorney s Office Interview 9 Principal Interviews 10 Miami-Dade County Truancy Intervention Program 12 V. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS 14 VI. FOLLOW-UP RECOMMENDATIONS 17 VII. REFERENCES 18

4 The School Board of Broward County, Florida Broward Truancy Intervention Program (BTIP) Operational Status Report Executive Summary The Broward Truancy Intervention Program (BTIP) began as a pilot program at two elementary schools in , was expanded to 37 schools in , to 80 schools in , and to all 128 elementary schools for the school year. BTIP consists of a series of letters and conferences with parents and guardians notifying them of Florida Statute (7)(a) mandating school attendance and warning them of potential criminal prosecution for noncompliance. Although the threat of court proceedings and penalties are intended to serve as motivation for compliance, the primary goal of the program is to work with parents and encourage them to be more responsible for ensuring their child's attendance. At all points in the process parents or guardians are offered services ranging from free alarm clocks to family counseling ultimately designed to get the student to school on a regular basis. The purpose of this status report was to: Purpose Of The Operational Status Report Review and document the policies and procedures of BTIP as instituted by Broward County Public Schools and the Broward State Attorney Office (SAO). Determine the extent to which the recommendations of the earlier status report have been implemented. Determine how the stipends are being used by the schools. Determine the impact of centralizing the function. Determine the impact of the program. Examine the Miami-Dade County Truancy Intervention Program in order to extract relevant comparisons with BTIP. A districtwide analysis of unexcused absences will be conducted following the end of the school year and will contain an analysis of the impact of BTIP on the number of unexcused absences at the elementary level. Cost Impact Costs associated with BTIP total $882,000 for the school year. Each elementary school except for Nova Eisenhower and Markham was allocated $7,000 to pay for BTIP related expenses such as clerical, documentation, and postage costs. All BTIP funds came from Safe School funds for the school year. Nova Eisenhower and Markham are participating in the Entrepreneurial i

5 School Program for and therefore did not receive BTIP funding through Safe School funds for the school year. ii

6 Summary and Conclusions The results of this status report leads to the conclusion that the recommendations made in the previous status report (Jackson, 2000) have been met: 1. Encourage the development of a system for monitoring record keeping and BTIP processing at schools for district or area administrators to identify schools where further training or assistance with BTIP procedures is needed. Visitations and analysis of intervention data revealed substantial variability between visitation schools in their administration of the program. A. Ensure that all BTIP schools follow BTIP procedures in a timely manner. For example, students should not accumulate five absences before parents receive notification for three unexcused absences (i.e., a "3-day letter"). The 3-day letter is essential in that it provides parents an early indication of the seriousness of their child's unexcused absences from school. B. Provide clarification of the circumstances under which principals should withdraw students from BTIP and excuse absences beyond the 48-hour excuse window specified in the Code of Student Conduct. Designees and administrators at several visitation schools indicated that they often excused absences (using the 076 code in TERMS) after the prescribed period for a variety of valid reasons, but there were many instances where excuses provided by parents were questionable. C. Consider processing BTIP letters and enrollments at the district level similar to the computer-automated method used by Miami-Dade Public Schools. This would eliminate the ambiguity and subjectivity associated in deciding whether an excuse should be considered after the designated period. By automating the process it would also relieve designees of some BTIP responsibilities freeing them for other duties. A training workshop was held for all principals and/or their designees in September in order to introduce the new schools to the program and to assure that all schools utilized the same procedures. A new procedures manual was distributed as part of the training process. The principal interviews revealed substantially greater consistency and timeliness in implementation than that found in the previous status report. The procedures were clarified during the Principal s training. Principals may withdraw students from BTIP when valid reasons exist, such as when circumstances beyond the control of the parents have prevented timely notification by the parent. The principal interviews revealed substantially greater consistency in implementation with fewer exceptions granted than that found in the previous status report. A Planning Committee consisting of four principals, representatives of Educational Technology Services (ETS), the SAO and the Office of Student Support Services and Exceptional Student Education has met regularly to address procedures, make recommendations, and solve implementation problems. Students will be automatically entered into BTIP after accumulating five unexcused absences. A pilot program is planned whereby ETS will generate and mail iii

7 2. Expand BTIP to all elementary schools for the school year. Based on the data presented in this report unexcused absences have decreased for BTIP schools. Expanding the program would allow every elementary school to experience the benefit of reduced truancy. 3. Investigate the feasibility of including middle schools for as a pilot program. The benefits produced by the program at BTIP elementary schools should be shared with middle schools where unexcused absenteeism is more acute. 4. Determine if kindergarten students, as a group, should be included in BTIP. There were inconsistencies among visitation schools as to whether kindergarten students were to be included. As compulsory attendance laws apply only to students who are 6 years old at the beginning of the school year, only a subset of kindergarten students are required by law to be in school. Excluding kindergarten students from the program would make BTIP processing easier, but would result in neglecting provision of interventions to some students that are required, by law, to be in school. out the five-day letter automatically. This pilot program is scheduled to begin in late February 2000 when programming has been completed and sources of funds for the mailings have been identified. BTIP has been expanded to include all elementary schools for the school year. The staff and Planning Committee have discussed the potential expansion of the program to the middle schools. They have determined that it is in the best interest of the program to focus on the elementary school expansion and the resolution of the technical issues involved with the automatic posting of the BTIP flag, SAO notification and mailing of the five-day letters. They have learned from discussion with other districts (e.g., Miami-Dade) and the SAO that the middle school level is much more complex. All of the schools interviewed include K-5 students in BTIP. Parents who contact the school with the complaint that their child is under the age of mandatory attendance can be removed from the program and provided assistance in other ways. Findings also revealed that there is a concern on the part of principals regarding the potential loss of clerical support in the attendance process if the stipends are eliminated. Otherwise, there is support for the centralization of BTIP enrollment and letter processes. The principals feel that the program has improved attendance and has increased awareness of the importance of attendance throughout the school community. iv

8 Follow-up Recommendations 1. Align the resources available to support the improvement of student attendance: a. Automate all phases of the BTIP process, including the scheduling of five and ten day meetings and mailing of the appropriate letters. If possible, consider the Miami-Dade process of recording meeting results immediately and sending SAO representatives to hand deliver notices the evening following a missed meeting. This would further eliminate the variability observed across the district in the implementation of BTIP procedures and communicate the seriousness of regular attendance. b. Re-examine the legal and financial implications of sending notices by certified mail. As parents either attend the five-day meeting or are visited by a representative of the SAO, adequate confirmation of notice is available. Miami-Dade has functioned effectively without the expense of certified mail. c. Re-examine the supplemental allocation to elementary schools from the Safe School Fund for BTIP clerical support in light of the changes recommended above and include in the budget process for implementation in the school year. 2. Continue to investigate the feasibility of establishing a similar program for middle schools to be piloted for the school year. Appropriate modifications may have to be made to accommodate the increased complexity at this level. This action will respond to the recommendations of the grand jury and the previous status report. v

9 THE SCHOOL BOARD OF BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA Broward Truancy Intervention Program (BTIP) Operational Status Report Introduction The Broward Truancy Intervention Program (BTIP) began as a pilot program at two elementary schools in , was expanded to 37 schools in , to 80 schools in , and to all 128 elementary schools for the school year. BTIP consists of a series of letters and conferences with parents and guardians notifying them of Florida Statute (7)(a) mandating school attendance and warning them of potential criminal prosecution for noncompliance. Although the threat of court proceedings and penalties are intended to serve as motivation for compliance, the primary goal of the program is to work with parents and encourage them to be more responsible for ensuring their child's attendance. At all points in the process parents or guardians are offered services ranging from free alarm clocks to family counseling ultimately designed to get the student to school on a regular basis. A status report was published by the Office of Research and Evaluation in August, 2000 (Jackson, 2000) and made the following recommendations: 1. Encourage the development of a system for monitoring record keeping and BTIP processing at schools for district or area administrators to identify schools where further training or assistance with BTIP procedures is needed. Visitations and analysis of intervention data revealed substantial variability between visitation schools in their administration of the program. A. Ensure that all BTIP schools follow BTIP procedures in a timely manner. For example, students should not accumulate five absences before parents receive notification for three unexcused absences (i.e., a "3-day letter"). The 3-day letter is essential in that it provides parents an early indication of the seriousness of their child's unexcused absences from school. B. Provide clarification of the circumstances under which principals should withdraw students from BTIP and excuse absences beyond the 48-hour excuse window specified in the Code of Student Conduct. Designees and administrators at several visitation schools indicated that they often excused absences (using the 076 code in TERMS) after the prescribed period for a variety of valid reasons, but there were many instances where excuses provided by parents were questionable. C. Consider processing BTIP letters and enrollments at the district level similar to the computer-automated method used by Miami-Dade Public Schools. This would eliminate the ambiguity and subjectivity associated in deciding whether an excuse should be considered after the designated period. By automating the process it would also relieve designees of some BTIP responsibilities freeing them for other duties. 1

10 2. Expand BTIP to all elementary schools for the school year. Based on the data presented in this report unexcused absences have decreased for BTIP schools. Expanding the program would allow every elementary school to experience the benefit of reduced truancy. 3. Investigate the feasibility of including middle schools for as a pilot program. The benefits produced by the program at BTIP elementary schools should be shared with middle schools where unexcused absenteeism is more acute. 4. Determine if kindergarten students, as a group, should be included in BTIP. There were inconsistencies among visitation schools as to whether kindergarten students were to be included. As compulsory attendance laws apply only to students who are 6 years old at the beginning of the school year, only a subset of kindergarten students are required by law to be in school. Excluding kindergarten students from the program would make BTIP processing easier, but would result in neglecting provision of interventions to some students that are required, by law, to be in school. Literature Review Truancy can become a problem on three levels, that of the student, the school, and society. On the student level, absenteeism contributes to poor academic performance. Studies have shown that truant students receive lower grades and show less than expected learning gains than students who attend school on a more regular basis (Deschamps, 1992; Robins & Ratcliff, 1978, Rohrman, 1993). Truancy has been found to be one of the strongest predictors of leaving school early (Deschamps, 1992). Students who miss school fall behind their peers in the classroom, which, in turn, leads to lowered selfesteem and increases the risk of dropping out (DeKalb, 1999). DeKalb, in his review of the implications of truancy, declares truancy one of the top ten major problems in this country s schools, negatively affecting the future of our youth (DeKalb, 1999, p.1). On the school level, absenteeism costs schools billions of dollars due to lost instructional time. Teachers and administrators devote significant time and resources to accounting for absent students and providing make-up work (Ratigan & Kube, 1991). Absenteeism also reduces the amount of state and federal funding that a school receives. The impacts to society are both short and long term. According to Birman and Natriello (1978) the short-term problems are the delinquency and crime, which occur when large numbers of adolescents are out of school and unemployed, and the long-term problems are created by former students and dropouts who have "failed to acquire basic competencies necessary for a productive adult life (p. 31). Truancy has been found to be a gateway to crime and is a major catalyst for drug use and daytime crime and violence (U.S. Department of Education, 1996, Garry, 1996). The literature has identified causal factors for truant behavior on four levels, personal variables, family variables, school variables, and societal variables (Bell, Rosen and Dynlacht, 1994). Programs that deal with the problem on all of these levels have been found to be most successful (Bell, Rosen and 2

11 Dynlacht, 1994, Black, 1996, ERIC Clearinghouse of Urban Education, 1997, U.S. Department of Education, 1996). Gerry, (1996) in his review, reports that parental neglect is a common cause of truancy and that because truancy often indicates bigger problems in a child s life, many communities are designing truancy reduction programs that involve schools, law enforcement, families, businesses, judicial and social service agencies, and community and youth service organizations. They report on seven programs that: Recognize that parents must be involved and held responsible for their children s school attendance. Provide intensive monitoring, counseling, and other family-strengthening services to truants and their families. In 1994, Miami-Dade County Schools pioneered a Truancy Intervention Program on the elementary level and has since expanded it to all elementary schools, 14 middle schools and two senior high schools. The program partners the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office and Miami-Dade County Public Schools in holding parents legally accountable for their child's school attendance. Truancy has decreased since the program's inception. The Miami-Dade program was used as the model from which Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) and the Broward State Attorney s Office developed the Broward Truancy Intervention Program (BTIP). Legal and Policy Background Florida Statute (FS) provides the legal framework for student attendance and parental responsibility. Florida law states that all children between the ages of 5 and 16 are required to attend school regularly (FS ) and A parent or legal guardian who refuses or fails to have a child who is under his or her control attend school regularly commits a misdemeanor of the second degree (FS (7)(a)). School Board Policy explains the requirements for school attendance and provides the distinction between excused and unexcused absences. The Elementary Code of Student Conduct (School Board of Broward County, 2000) states, in part: Students must attend school every school day of the 180 day school year until their sixteenth birthday. Florida Statute establishes that the parent/legal guardian of a child of compulsory age is responsible for the child's daily school attendance. School staff, parents, students, and appropriate state agencies are expected to work together to ensure that laws are obeyed, including, but not limited to, referral to the state designated agency for possible court action for truancy. 3

12 Excused Absences Students must be in school unless the absence has been excused for one of the reasons listed below. For reasons 1-5, parents must report the absence the day before, the day of, or within two school days following the absence, or the absence will be considered unexcused. Some situations will require written documentation from a private physician or public health unit. Excused absences include: 1. Illness of student. Any student who expects to miss at least 15 consecutive school days due to illness, medical condition, or social emotional reasons, or who would miss excessive days intermittently throughout the school year for the same reasons, and could benefit from instruction, should obtain a copy of the Homebound referral packet from the Homebound contact person at his/her school. 2. Illness of an immediate family member. 3. Death in the family. 4. Religious holidays of the student's own specific faith. 5. Required court appearance or subpoena by a law enforcement agency. 6. Special event. Examples of special events include important public functions, conferences, state/national competitions, as well as exceptional cases of family need. The student must get permission from the principal / designee at least five days ahead of time. 7. Scheduled doctor or dentist appointment. The parent must notify the school of the date and appointment time prior to the absence /release time. 8. Suspension from class (internal, external, alternatives to external suspension). 9. Students having or suspected of having a communicable disease or infestation which can be transmitted are to be excluded from school and are not allowed to return to school until they no longer present a health hazard (Florida Statute ). Examples of communicable diseases and infestations include, but are not limited to, fleas, headlice, ringworm, impetigo, and scabies. Students are allowed a maximum of five days excused absence for an infestation of head lice. Absence Reports Absences may be reported by telephone or written note. The report must come from a parent and give the date or dates of the absence and the reason for it. Parents MUST report these absences within two days following the absences, although school principals MAY make exceptions in cases of need. School staff members have a legal right to ask for a written medical excuse. Unexcused Absences It is the responsibility of the school principal to ensure that parents are contacted after each unexcused absence and to ensure that there are specific, appropriate consequences/ interventions as a result of each unexcused absence. 4

13 1. If absences are not excused, as defined in the previous section, the absences are considered unexcused. 2. Students without a completed Certificate of Immunization indicating compliance with the current required schedule if immunizations will not be allowed to attend classes until this document is provided or a waiver is obtained. Students who receive the first shot in a series of immunizations but who are late obtaining subsequent shots will be given a three-day grace period after which the student will be excluded from school and resulting absences will be considered unexcused. (p 13 14) The Elementary Code of Student Conduct also introduces BTIP by stating: BTIP Procedures The Broward Truancy Intervention Program (BTIP) is a joint partnership program of the Broward State Attorney's Office and the School Board of Broward County. The program is designed to prevent excessive absences through parent notification and accountability, school interventions, and daily monitoring of attendance. Parents/ guardians are expected to communicate with school personnel regarding all absences. Parents who do not comply are referred to the State Attorney's Office for failure to comply with section (7)(a) Florida Statute which provides that a parent or guardian commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided by law, if the parent or guardian refuses or fails to have a child attend school regularly or refuses to participate in meetings concerning their child's truancy. (p. 15) The current BTIP procedures are described below. Step 1, Three Unexcused Absences. When a student accumulates three unexcused absences, the school staff notifies the student's parents (for purposes of this paper, parents will refer to both parents and guardians). The three-day notification may be accomplished by letter, home visit or phone conference. Pursuant to FS (2)(c), parents are formally notified of Florida law mandating school attendance. In addition, the parents are notified by letter stating that if they refuse or fail to have the student attend school, the child's records will be subpoenaed by the State Attorney s Office (SAO) and that the parents face possible court penalties. Parents are instructed to contact staff at their child's school to discuss compliance with the law. Step 2, Five Unexcused Absences. When a student's unexcused absences increase to five days, school staff "TIP" the student by entering a code in the student's mainframe data file (L27 panel in TERMS) that flags the student's identification number at the SAO. At this point, the SAO sends a letter to the parents notifying them that the SAO is monitoring their child's attendance. Concurrently, the school staff sends a 5-day letter to the parents. This correspondence serves both as a formal request for a school conference and as a notification that the SAO has issued to the school system a subpoena duces tecum for the child's records. By law, the school system must obey the court 5

14 order for the requisition of records unless the parents file a protective court order within 10 days. The protective order, given by a judge to parents for extenuating circumstances, prevents schools from sharing a child's records with the SAO. If a protective order is filed then the unexcused absences are changed to excused status. Should the parents fail to meet with school staff regarding the 5-day unexcused absences, a SAO TIP specialist arranges a subsequent meeting at a non-school location. Including both school and SAO representatives, the focus of the conference is to discuss the seriousness of noncompliance with mandatory attendance laws and to develop a plan for parents to rectify the situation. Step 3, Ten Unexcused Absences. Upon increase to 10 unexcused absences by a student, the parents are sent a 10-day letter. The correspondence serves as notification of an area meeting with the BCPS Area Director and the SAO representative to develop a plan of action specifying what parents will be required to do to comply with the law and to identify necessary support services for the family. The school receives notification of the pending meeting. If parents attend any of the above meetings and subsequently comply with the plan of action then the BTIP intervention is classified as successful. Continued monitoring of attendance will occur. If, however, parents do not attend the meetings or comply with the plan of action to the 10-day or above unexcused level the SAO may file criminal charges or refer the case to Children in Need of Services (CINS) or Family in Need of Services (FINS). Cost Impact Costs associated with BTIP total $882,000 for the school year. Each elementary school except for Nova Eisenhower and Markham was allocated $7,000 to pay for BTIP related expenses such as clerical, documentation, and postage costs. All BTIP funds came from Safe School funds for the school year. Nova Eisenhower and Markham are participating in the Entrepreneurial School Program for and therefore did not receive BTIP funding through Safe School funds for the school year. Purpose of The Operational Status Report The purpose of this status report was to: Review and document the policies and procedures of BTIP as instituted by Broward County Public Schools and the Broward State Attorney s Office. Determine the extent to which the recommendations of the earlier status report have been implemented. Determine how the stipends are being used by the schools. Determine the impact of centralizing the functions of the program. 6

15 Determine the impact of the program. Examine the Miami-Dade County Truancy Intervention Program in order to extract relevant comparisons with BTIP. A districtwide analysis of unexcused absences will be conducted following the end of the school year and will contain an analysis of the impact of BTIP on the number of unexcused absences at the elementary level. Methodology The evaluation methodology utilized in this status report was a case study approach. Relevant staff were interviewed in order to determine the background of the program, the policies and procedures utilized, their experiences with the program, program costs and centralization, expansion and other program modification plans. The Assistant State Attorney responsible for the program was interviewed in order to determine the impact of the program from the State Attorney s point of view. A sample of 16 principals was interviewed by telephone in order to determine the utilization of the stipends, the procedures utilized, the degree of implementation of the policies and procedures, other truancy reduction measures in place and the perceived impact of centralization. The person responsible for the truancy intervention program in Miami-Dade County Public Schools was interviewed in order to determine their processes and to gather information regarding their best practices and lessons learned. Staff Interviews Results The Director of School Social Work and Attendance, who serves as BTIP coordinator, and the Director of Student Support Services and Exceptional Student Education were interviewed to determine the current status of the program. The evaluator also met the Planning Committee charged with developing improvements to the program procedures. In , BTIP was expanded to include all elementary schools. A training workshop was held for all principals and/or their designees in September in order to introduce the new schools to the program and to assure that all schools utilized the same procedures. A new procedures manual was distributed as part of the training process. A Planning Committee consisting of four principals, representatives of Educational Technology Services (ETS), the SAO and the Office of Student Support Services and Exceptional Student Education has met regularly to address procedures, make recommendations and solve implementation problems. As a result of their work, the following recommendations for changes in the BTIP process were made and have been approved by Senior Management: 1. A student will be automatically BTIPPED (referred to SAO) by ETS when the student has five unexcused absences. If parents subsequently report that the absence should be an excused 7

16 absence, the school will code the student 076. This will electronically notify SAO to "undo" the BTIP status. 2. Schools will have up to 10 days to work with parents to clarify the status of the student's absence, to address the need for 48-hour reporting of absences, and to input code 076 for students whose absences are determined to be excused. (The 10-day window is consistent with the 10-day legal notice requirement that the 5-day certified letter indicates parents have to seek a court order to prevent the school district from releasing records to the SAO.) 3. In addition to electronically notifying the SAO of the students who have five unexcused absences, ETS will also provide automatic notification to both the area offices and schools. 4. For the school year, schools will send out the 5-day certified letters to parents and use the address of the SAO for the return address. The SAO investigators will then follow-up on certified letters not picked-up by parents and letters returned due to incorrect addresses. 5. Beginning with the school year, ETS will electronically send out the 5-day certified letters to parents. (Cost estimate for certified letters and programming changes is being prepared.) 6. It is requested that schools retain supplemental BTIP funding to cover the costs for data entry documentation and sending or delivering the 3-day letters. The committee is currently working on revising the procedures manual and working out the details necessary for the automatic posting of the BTIP code and notification of the SAO. A pilot program is planned whereby ETS will generate and mail out the five day letter automatically. Five schools are currently scheduled to participate in this pilot program. The focus of the efforts of the Truancy Program has been on developing an array of interventions and family support programs in cooperation with the various community agencies in Broward County. The meetings required by the program are designed to determine what the problems are that create the truancy problem and to fashion appropriate support interventions to work with the parents to improve the student s overall academic experience. This focus has been augmented by Board actions to add 21 school social workers in the last three years and to provide additional resources for those Innovation Zones that have great need. The staff pointed out that the greatest current problem continues to be a lack of consistency among the schools in the implementation of BTIP procedures. They feel that there is a need for uniformity in procedures and documentation to provide for guidance for the schools and to establish minimum actions to be taken at each step. The staff and Planning Committee have discussed the potential expansion of the program to the middle schools. They have determined that it is in the best interest of the program to focus on the elementary school expansion and the resolution of the technical issues involved with the automatic posting of the BTIP flag, SAO notification and mailing of the five-day letters. They have learned from discussion with other districts (e.g., Miami-Dade) and the SAO that the middle school level is much more complex. The 8

17 primary source of the complexity comes from the difficulty in determining the difference between parental responsibility in truancy issues (e.g., not supporting school attendance) from student responsibility (e.g., student walks away from school after parental drop-off). There has been historically very little community support for arresting parents when the student is the primary actor in truancy matters. State Attorney s Office Interview The Assistant State Attorney responsible for BTIP was interviewed to determine the experience of the State Attorney s Office (SAO) with the program. The SAO becomes involved after five unexcused absences. They receive the student ID numbers and prepare a subpoena ducus tecum to the School Board for the student records. A copy of this subpoena is faxed to the schools. Ten days later (this allows time for the parents, who have been notified, to obtain a protective order), the SAO receives the students names and demographic information. A work order is generated for process services to deliver notices to the parents who have not attended a five-day meeting to contact the school to arrange for a meeting. The process servers work to locate families and resolve address problems. When the student reaches ten unexcused absences, a ten-day meeting is scheduled by the area student services coordinator and held in a local sheriff s office. The SAO is involved in the meeting. If the parent attends and expresses a willingness to resolve the problem, the SAO will work with them and help to arrange appropriate assistance and negotiate an agreement with the family to resolve the attendance problem. If the parents do not attend the ten-day meeting or fail to follow the agreement, court proceedings may be initiated. A social worker referral is initiated and no action is taken until this interaction takes place. Prior to initiation of court proceedings, all parties, including the school, must agree that this is the appropriate step. A total of 64 cases have been filed from May 1999 to the present. Of these 36 have been resolved (e.g., probation including parenting classes, drug screening, etc.), 27 are still pending and only one has gone to trial. The SAO feels that the process is having a positive impact on the community and will result in a decrease in truancy and subsequent delinquent behavior. They feel that the biggest problem is the inconsistency between schools in application of the policies and procedures. They feel that, by having the BTIP process at the five-day point automated, there will be more consistency in application of BTIP across the county. The Broward County Grand Jury for the Spring Term 2000 (Broward County Grand Jury, 2000), found that its previous recommendation that the Broward County School Board, all law enforcement agencies, and all youth agencies in Broward County continue to adopt and implement effective antitruancy programs had been met (p. 50). They further recommended that the Broward County School Board continue its cooperative efforts with law enforcement to continue the anti-truancy programs currently in effect which have been very successful in curbing the recidivism rate of the children involved. It is further recommended that the current effective Truancy Reduction Program implemented by the Broward County Sheriffs Office be expanded to include Middle School Students. It is also recommended that effective anti-truancy programs and measures be reviewed by the Broward County 9

18 Juvenile Justice Board Truancy Task Force and their implementation recommended when deemed appropriate. (p. 82). 10

19 Principal Interviews A judgment sample of 16 schools was selected by the Office of Research and Evaluation. This sample was chosen to include four schools from each area and to represent the demographic diversity of Broward County. The BTIP coordinators from each area were specifically included in the sample. Telephone conferences with the principals of these schools were scheduled and conducted during the week of December 18. A total of 14 of the 16 principals were successfully interviewed during this time. The two unsuccessful interview calls were completed or replaced during the following two school weeks. Table 1 provides all responses to the principal telephone interviews. Note that several interview items may total to more than 100% as principals often gave more than one response. Table 1 Principal Telephone Interview Responses Question and Response N PCT How is the $6250 BTIP administration stipend being utilized at your school (where do the dollars go)? Support part of clerical position % Postage % Supplement for office personnel % Fund part-time position % How is your school enforcing the policy (who does what and how strictly is it being enforced)? Who is the designee? Office Clerk % Assistant Principal % Part-time person % Office Manager % Secretary % What students are included under the policy? K % Pre K % How often are the letters sent out? How? Daily % Weekly % Bi-weekly % What exceptions are made? (e.g., 48 hour window, holding onto a letter or SAO notification) None % Issue known to school (e.g., parent death) % If reason is valid, absence is excused after 48 hr % Change with Doctor s letter % No three day letter without contact (heavy ESOL) % Reasonable exceptions to 48 hr % 11

20 (table continues) Table 1. (continued) Question and Response N PCT What records are kept? AS % BTIP log % File folders % Back of attendance card % What other actions are used beyond the BTIP policy? Social Worker % Phone calls % Teachers make parent contacts % Community Liaison visits % Newsletters other written notices % Rewards for good attendance % What would be the impact of centralizing this function (including the removal of the stipend) on the school? Problem if funds removed needed to cover clerical costs of documentation and follow-up removed % Good would reach more parents, be more consistent, and mean more if coming from district % Make it easier on the schools % Easier to provide continuity when children move % No change % Remove school flexibility % What would be the impact of centralizing this function on the community? Standardizing district approach eliminate differences in application % Negative impact residents reluctant to talk to government officials % Community would take it more seriously % What do you believe that the impact of BTIP has been on your school and community? Improved overall attendance % Brought awareness % Made parents responsible and aware % What other items regarding BTIP do you think I need to know? Extend to tardies % Problem with parents using poor reasons for absences % Increase enforcement on excessive absences regardless of excused/unexcused % Note. Several interview items may total to more than 100% as principals often gave more than one response. 12

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