Buffalo Public Schools administrators, faculty, staff, parents and students convened last month at the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts to discuss the issues of chronic absence the district has been facing.

At this attendance summit, they were joined by Hedy Chang, national director of Attendance Works, as well as a group of administrators from the New York City school district.

More than 56 percent of freshmen in the Buffalo Public Schools are chronically absent from school -- missing 10 percent of school days or more. Chronic absence rates can be easily masked by all-too-promising average daily attendance data which usually hovers around 90 percent.

After addresses by Interim Superintendent of Schools Amber Dixon and other dignitaries, Chang took the stage to relay statistics and successes in combating chronic absences. She explained in detail her efforts in Baltimore, Grand Rapids, Mich., New York City and her hometown of Oakland, Calif. She believes the key to combating chronic absences is not blaming any particular group for the problem but focusing on transition grades such as kindergarten and ninth grade in order to make the greatest impact. She says regular attendance is not a short-term goal and it will require attention over an extended period of time and everybody's help.

The New York City administrators then shared their success story. Through positive encouragement and widespread involvement, their district greatly improved its chronic absence rate and is encouraged by the efforts being made in Buffalo.

Over the summer and so far in the current school year, the Buffalo school district has already made some strides to improve the chronic absences rate. These improvements include wake-up calls by dignitaries to chronically absent students, launching a public awareness campaign and more.

After the presentations, the attendees were broken off into groups -- parents, students, administrators, etc. Each group brainstormed and discussed how to solve the issue of chronic absences within the district. After the individual meetings, each group presented its ideas.

The atmosphere was uplifting as everyone agreed to work together.


Anna Hyzy is a junior at City Honors.