Initiative targets students who repeatedly miss school

To deal with the problem of children who chronically miss school, Mayor James and local groups are matching kids up with mentors.

The mayor says a new initiative targets students who miss ten percent or more of a school year through absenteeism. It will identify children in kindergarten through third grade who are at risk of becoming chronically absent and match them with adult volunteers who will serve as tutors and mentors. The initiative will begin in 10 different elementary schools throughout Kansas City.

Turn the Page KC and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City are partners in the project.

Here’s more from the mayor’s office:

“Strong, vibrant communities embrace and support the next generation and this initiative shows that here in Kansas City, we understand that and we are taking action,” said Mayor Sly James.  “I applaud Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City, and all of the organizations who joined us today as ‘Page Turners’ and ‘Bigs,’ for recognizing the importance of taking an active role in our young people’s lives.”

“Big Brothers Big Sisters is excited to partner with Mayor Sly James and Turn the Page KC to provide Big Brothers and Big Sisters to KC area kids,” said Jon Hile, Chief Operating Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters. “Internal and external research demonstrates that introducing caring adults into the life of a child is an effective way to improve academic and attendance outcomes for that student.  BBBS is proud to be a part of this great effort and confident that our city will answer this challenge.”

Students who are chronically absent miss 10 percent or more total days during the school year.  Chronic absenteeism in the early years of a child’s education is directly linked with lower reading scores in later grades.  Research by Attendance Works and the Campaign for Grade Level Reading shows that only 17 percent of children who miss 18 or more days in kindergarten and first grade will read at grade level by third grade. Conversely, 64 percent of students with good attendance will read on grade level by the same time. Furthermore, research by the Baltimore Education Research Consortium found that nearly nine out of 10 students who missed more than four days in September were chronically absent that year.  Consequently, the Mayor is declaring September as “Attendance Awareness Month” for the second year in a row.  Mentoring is a proven strategy to help improve attendance.

To kick start this initiative, five businesses have committed to lending volunteers from their organizations to participate in this community-wide venture.  Volunteers can help further this cause in two ways: 1) serving as a Turn the Page KC “page turner” and tutoring students to help improve their reading skills during the school day or 2) becoming a mentor through Big Brother Big Sisters. The Kansas City Public Library will host future events for mentors and mentees to further build a community of readers in Kansas City.

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