Austin ISD Superintendent Paul Cruz and other education leaders discussed at a SXSWedu Conference & Festival session March 9 how the Austin school district has been combating chronic absenteeism with President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative.
AISD, in collaboration with local entities including the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, local nonprofit E3 Alliance, the city of Austin, Travis County and the University of Texas at Austin, launched a pilot program of MBK on March 8, 2015.
AISD is one of 10 school districts in the U.S. that have launched a pilot program of MBK, AISD Chief Schools Officer Edmund Oropez said. At Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy, Lanier High School and Travis Early College High School, sixth and ninth grade male students of color who exhibit chronic absenteeism are paired with a mentor, he said. Chronic absenteeism is defined as a student who misses 10 percent or more of school days in a single school year, Oropez said.
E3 Executive Director Susan Dawson said ninth grade students who are chronically absent are 10 times more likely to not graduate compared with those who are not chronically absent.
“We have many students who are males of color not finishing high school,” Cruz said. “Not only is that an economic impact to the student and [the student's] family, there is also an economic impact to the Austin community.”
Cruz added that although the principals and staff are making progress to fight absenteeism, there is still work to be done.