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San Antonio Rolls Out New Attendance Initiative

By Early Years blogger Julie Blair

The nation's seventh largest city—San Antonio—will revamp the way it deals with truants, many of whom begin negative patterns as early as preschool, and it will begin collecting data to gauge how big the problem is in its 15 school districts.

"No one's ever looked at this before," said Judy K. McCormick, the executive director for the city's P16 Plus Council, in an interview, adding that schools do keep numbers on daily absences but never on who is absent.

The announcement was made Friday at a rally launching SA Kids Attend to Win, a public-service campaign kicked off in conjunction with national Attendance Awareness Month.

It is known that children who miss substantial amounts of preschool are much more likely to drop out of high school, said Kathleen Bruck, CEO of the city's new Pre-K 4 SA program, which aims to spend $248 million over the next eight years offering high-quality preschool to 22,400 children.

Previously, the approach to truancy has been a negative one, she added.

"You get fined and go to court," Bruck added. "With this approach, a home visit is made. We'll say, 'Why do you have trouble getting your child to school?'"

Families may need a wake-up call or a map to the closest public transportation, Bruck said.

"We want to help parents realize their role in education and be advocates for their kids," she said. "That will have a long-term impact on school success."

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