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Removing barriers, high-tech monitoring helping reduce chronic school attendance problems

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Buffalo Public Schools say they are making headway in their chronic attendance problems among students, from kindergarten through high school.

The school district has an unusual problem: low attendance in kindergarten and the standard low attendance in high school.

The plan has been to keep high school students in schools with more attractive programs with career possibilities and to deal with kindergarteners by working with parents to persuade them to get their kids on the bus.

"So if there is a barrier that may be preventing the student from coming to school - be it a barrier that is with the individual child or a barrier that's presented for the parent not to be able to get their child to school - our responsibility and our goal is to remove that barrier so that the child has fair access to a quality education," according to Associate Superintendent for Student Support Services Eric Rosser.

He says besides the carrot of support help for kindergarten parents, there is also a stick.

"There's a number of different supports and laws that are in place, so if a parent is having some challenges with sending their child to school on a day-to-day basis, then we have supports and services in place to assist parents," Rosser says. "If parents are refusing to send their children to school, then, of course, there are laws and regulations associated with compulsory school attendance and we follow those."

The district has added attendance teachers this year. It also has high-tech attendance monitoring through the Infinite Campus computer program, to which parents have access.

"We no longer have what we call the Traveller Cards, which were cards that teachers used to complete the attendance and send it down to the clerk," Rosser says. "The clerk then spent a good hour-and-a-half inputting whether or not a student was in school or out of school. It's all handled electronically, now, so we're able to better track or more quickly track where students are."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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