AUSTIN (KXAN) — There are new efforts underway to prevent what’s become a big problem in Central Texas: chronic absenteeism. That’s when a student misses 20 days out of the 180 school year — or about one out of every 10 days of school. For the first time a summit will be held in Austin to help district leaders learn new ways to curb the problem.
According to E3 Alliance, 2.3 million individual students missed school within the last five years in Central Texas. That costs the district money. Each day a student is out they lose $38, which amounts to a total of $91 million per year when combining all of the Central Texas districts. That’s why on Monday, E3 Alliance will sponsor the first ever Attendance Summit for district leaders to learn the benefits of mentoring to improve attendance.
At Travis Early College High School in South Austin, freshman Jessie Trevino was identified on day one as a student who was chronically absent. He missed half of his 6th grade year, weeks at a time in 7th grade, and by 8th grade missed more because he was so far behind.
“I just felt sick and didn’t feel like going,” Trevino says.
This year he was one of about 50 students selected for a program called, “My Brother’s Keeper.” It started in 2015 under the Obama administration. Austin was one of 30 cities selected to take part in the mentorship program and Travis Early College High School was identified as a school that would benefit from the program.
“Positive relationships allow students the motivation to come to school and the idea is they want to come and see their mentor,” says David Crissey, Assistant Principal and Mentor.
Students are paired with a mentor who is often a staff member at the high school. They meet two to three times per week to talk, Sometimes the conversation can simply revolve around what they had for dinner.
“I think that’s something new mentors don’t realize,” Crissey says. “At first you are working to form a positive relationship and on the back end is when those indicators of success happen. A lot of times we talk about their inability to come to school and a lot of it goes back to a negative school experience at either the elementary level or middle school level and those kind of created a paradigm in their head of why they weren’t coming to school.”
For Trevino, the mentorship program has led him to want to come to school.
“The environment and everything has changed like my feelings towards school. I kind of want to be here as much as I can,” Trevino says. “I realized that I need to come to school if I want to do something with myself so I just started coming to school and trying to keep my grades as good as I can.”
Principal Ty Davidson sees the results when he looks at attendance data.
“Any student who is being mentored overall improves their attendance we have data that shows every time we celebrate them we can go 7 to 10 days of perfect attendance for our mentees.”
Right now My Brother’s Keepers is in 11 AISD schools and is expected to grow.
“In a perfect world, every student would have a caring adult in their world,” Davidson says.