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Truancy Policies Treat Symptoms, Not Causes, Bilingual Ed. Expert Says

Truancy policies are making national news these days—I wrote about San Antonio's attempt to do positive intervention just a couple of weeks ago--so I was intrigued to find out that Karen Nemeth, a national expert on bilingual education in the early years, has been blogging about the subject.

There's been an emphasis on poor school attendance especially in the early years, she writes on her Language Castle blog, but many strategies aimed at combating truancy focus on "symptoms rather than root causes."

Children are often late or miss school altogether—and are punished for it—not because they are lazy but because the families they come from are struggling in one way or another, wrote the author, presenter and consultant.

"Along with a positive information campaign about how important good attendance is for each child's success, schools and districts will need to dig a little deeper," Nemeth writes.

She goes on to chronical issues faced: Parents may be constricted by their own illness or depression, making it difficult for them to get children to the only available transportation, a school bus stop. Many don't have the money to buy their children warm coats or new shoes, lack funding for field trips, or can't comprehend school attendance policies which are written in a language other than their own. They are furthermore embarrassed by the punishments handed down for their children. Some, in fact, are reminded of their own negative school experiences—or hoping to shelter their offspring from current bullying or a sense of failure.

"Getting the school community and the neighborhoods involved in attendance improvement efforts should be a rallying call for supports for all families," Nemeth writes. "The ones who need the most help may be the hardest to find or the last to ask. When a community comes together to raise up the struggling families, the whole community benefits."

To see Nemeth's list of strategies to abate truancy in the early years and beyond, click here.

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