By Oliver Price, news staff
My Brother’s Keeper, a new White House initiative to fight chronic absenteeism in public education, has joined with Boston Public Schools (BPS) to introduce the partnership program to four institutions.
The new initiative works with students who either currently are or may become at risk of being chronically absent from school, primarily in sixth and ninth grade.
According to a press release from the US Department of Education, a student is chronically absent when they are “missing at least 10 percent of school days in a school year for any reason, excused or unexcused.” Students who are chronically absent are more likely to drop out of school, which affects prospective career opportunities, according to BPS.
BPS is among 10 large school districts that have agreed to integrate the initiative into their programs. BPS has been working with City Year, a national volunteer teaching program based in Boston, and several other organizations in order to provide the youth of Boston with a network of resources and mentorship programs at Jeremiah E. Burke High School, English High School, Higginson-Lewis K-8 School and Perkins Elementary School.
“My Brother’s Keeper is a success mentor initiative in a multi-organization partnership,” Colleen Flynn, communications director for City Year, said. “Each mentor is assigned three to five student mentees. [Chronic absenteeism is] something we work on, part of our larger holistic model. It is to make sure students turn up on time and ready for school.”
Flynn also spoke on the repercussions of being chronically absent, saying that missing classes is an indicator that the student may drop out before graduating.
According to a press release distributed by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, “Boston was proud to answer President [Barack] Obama’s call to action. I am proud of the great momentum we are experiencing across policies and programming supporting Black and Latino males and all youth in the city.”
BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang also lauded the initiative and spoke about the need to ensure that “particularly low-income children of color have a caring adult in their lives is crucial to keeping them on the path to success” in a statement to The News.
Students in transitional grades, such as those going into and leaving middle school, are more at risk of becoming chronically absent, according to an attached BPS press release from Monday, Feb. 22.
My Brother’s Keeper also provides the students with mentors that will take on family support and outreach roles for parents and guardians of chronically absent students.
According to data provided by Johns Hopkins University, 52 percent of students who worked with mentors in the Success Mentor model were more likely to remain in school the following year.
My Brother’s Keeper marks a step in programs designed to support the youth of Boston.
“In Boston, we’re fortunate to have a community of partners that are passionate about this work. We will continue to do everything in our power to improve the lives of our youth,” Walsh said.
Photo by Rob Smith