Dudley High School In Greensboro Enforced A New Attendance Policy

7:13 PM, Nov 15, 2011   |    comments
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Greensboro, N.C. - School dropouts puts a strain on all our wallets because dropouts often end up on public assistance or even in the criminal justice system.

Stopping that cycle now, before a kid quits school, is the key to changing a young life.

In Guilford County, last year, more than 23,000 students missed ten or more days of class. Many of those kids will be fine, but for others, those absences are the beginning of a long, downward slide into trouble.

At Greensboro's Dudley High School, teachers are leaving the building to talk to people in the neighborhoods about school attendance. They're even asking local churches to help encourage kids to show up.

This year, the school started enforcing a policy that says if you have four or more unexcused absences, you don't get credit for that class -- even if you've earned an "A." As a result, for the first time in years, attendance numbers have not dropped.

17-year-old Mykeya Smith's 22 absences sent her down a path that felt hopeless.

"I didn't know what to do," she said.

Everything changed after her principal called her into his office.

"I never thought I was going to actually meet with him and have him really sit down and say, 'What's the problem and how can we help you?'" she said.

So, how much time, money and resources are going in to make sure kids show up to school?

Principal Jesse Pratt said, "It's a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of resources to put there."

Counselor Norman Phelps said, "It's the school and the whole community that will help that student or individual become the adult that we want him or her to become...We care because we want to make sure that our students are ready to go out into either the workforce or go to college."

The school spends about $15,000 federal tax dollars a year to offer make-up classes and tutoring on Saturdays.

State funds cover the $7,000 cost for after school help.

Plus, a team of teachers, counselors and administrators meet once a week to keep the attendance message consistent.

"This is the job and the task we're dealing with in the twentieth century going into the twenty-first century. Schools are much different from the past. So, we must adjust ourselves," Pratt said.

Those adjustments have paid off. The personal attention has improved school attendance numbers and students' attitudes.

Smith said, "I felt like I mattered. I really did."

Some teachers call or text students to make sure they come to class.

Despite the policy of essentially getting an "F" if you don't show up, grades have not dropped at Dudley.

Teachers say they want their students to succeed and they are doing everything they can to make that happen.

Assistant Principal Cheryl Beeson said, "We're all communicating a very consistent message: It is important for our students to be in school. We want you here. We care about you being here. It's important to us that you learn. I think that message has been well received."

WFMY News 2

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