Parkland Assistant Superintendent Dr. Rodney Troutman leads a group of educators from every school district in Lehigh County in an effort to improve school attendance.
Troutman spoke to The Press about the endeavor.
“Our goal is to get the best attendance for all of our kids,” Troutman said. “Children with good attendance are more likely to be successful in school.
“High attendance rates are linked to high student achievement.
Troutman noted high student achievement with school attendance is true for every grade — elementary, middle, and high school.
“Missing even 10 percent of the time has a negative impact on reading and math achievement as children progress through school, Troutman said. “Every day counts. Every minute counts.”
Troutman chairs the Education Success Truancy Elimination Subcommittee of the Lehigh County Children’s Round Table.
The group meets each month to collaborate on the goal of lowering truancy rates in all schools.
Judge J. Brian Johnson, of the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas, heads the Round Table which oversees various children’s issues which may find their way to the court.
These include homelessness, mental health, and other factors which could influence school attendance.
The subcommittee meets with Johnson quarterly.
“He’s a very good man and always available to help,” Troutman said.
Troutman reported the Truancy Elimination Subcommittee strives to build relationships between school district leaders and county or private service providers.
Some of these include Pinebrook Family Answers, Epic Health Services, KidsPeace, Valley Youth House, Center for Humanistic Change, county organizations relevant to children and youth, and many more.
Troutman said finding the cause of a student’s absence can help educators and the family find solutions to the problem.
He said K/S Consultants has provided an important service.
“They go and do home visits,” Troutman said. “They don’t want to be punitive. They’re there to help.
“Sometimes there’s a sick mother. There could be a zillion different reasons we didn’t know
Troutman said K/S can help families connect with different agencies to help.
This school year, the federal government’s Every Student Succeeds Act and PA’s Future Ready Index will define 10 percent absence in a school year as “chronically absent.”
Medical appointments, educational trips and vacations are all counted as school absences.
Troutman said parents are asked to schedule events during days school is not in session.
“We have some families that take three or four trips a year,” Troutman said. “We’re asking them to take the least amount of days off as possible.
“We try to educate them on the importance of education. Our job is to get kids to school.”
Troutman reflected on the accomplishments of the Truancy Elimination Sub-Committee.
“Ten years ago, only two schools participated,” Troutman said. “Now it’s every school in the county. It’s a priority for them.
“It shows we’re all sending the same message. We’re all in this together. We want the best attendance for our kids.
Troutman said when kids are in school, they perform better than when they are not.
“Attendance and school performance are intertwined,” Troutman said. “We talk about a lot of things. It’s a great networking opportunity knowing other agencies are there to help you.
Troutman said the instruction that occurs in the classroom cannot be replaced.
“Disruption to education starts adding up,” Troutman said. “We want to increase the sensitivity to the importance of school attendance.”