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U.S.

Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

September 2001

Truancy Reduction:
A Message From OJJDP
Keeping Students Each school day, hundreds of thou-
sands of students are missing from
in School their classroomsmany without a
bona fide excuse.
Left unchecked, truancy is a risk fac-
Myriam L. Baker, Jane Nady Sigmon, and M. Elaine Nugent tor for serious juvenile delinquency.
Truancys impact also extends into
Truancy, or unexcused absence from Left unaddressed, truancy during the the adult years where it has been
school, has been linked to serious delin- preteen and teenage years can have sig- linked to numerous negative out-
quent activity in youth and to significant nificant negative effects on the student, comes. Consequently, it is critical
negative behavior and characteristics in schools, and society. It is important to to identify strategies that intervene
adults.1 As a risk factor for delinquent be- identify promising strategies to intervene effectively with youth who are chroni-
cally truant and that interrupt their
havior in youth, truancy has been found with chronic truants, address the root
progress to delinquency and other
to be related to substance abuse, gang causes of truancy, and stop youths pro-
negative behaviors by addressing
activity, and involvement in criminal ac- gression from truancy into more serious
the underlying reasons behind their
tivities such as burglary, auto theft, and and violent behaviors. absence from school.
vandalism (Bell, Rosen, and Dynlacht,
1994; Dryfoos, 1990; Garry, 1996; Huizinga, This Bulletin highlights some of the major This Bulletin provides an overview
Loeber, and Thornberry, 1995; Rohrman, research findings regarding the problem of the problem of truancy; describes
1993). of truancy and demonstrates why it is the correlations of family, school,
important that schools and communities economic, and student factors with
Much of the work in the area of develop- work to prevent and reduce its incidence. truancy; notes truancys role as a
mental pathways to delinquency shows It also discusses Abolish Chronic Truancy predictor of delinquency, including
that these behavioral problems often are (ACT) Now and the Office of Juvenile juvenile daytime crime; and tallies
followed by progressively more serious Justice and Delinquency Preventions truancys social and financial impacts.
behavioral and adjustment problems in (OJJDPs) Truancy Reduction Demon-
Two OJJDP-funded projects are fea-
adulthood, including an increased pro- stration Program (TRDP) and the TRDP
tured: the ACT Now program oper-
pensity for violent behavior (Bell, Rosen, evaluation.
ated by the Pima County Attorneys
and Dynlacht, 1994; Dryfoos, 1990; Kelley Office in Arizona and the Truancy
et al., 1997). Further, adults who were Reduction Demonstration Program,
frequently truant as teenagers are much Overview of the a partnership with the Executive
more likely than those who were not to Truancy Problem Office for Weed and Seed and the
have poorer health and mental health, Every day, hundreds of thousands of youth Safe and Drug-Free Schools
lower paying jobs, an increased chance are absent from school; many are absent Program.
of living in poverty, more reliance on without an excuse and deemed truant.
welfare support, children who exhibit Truancy is an early warning sign for
Although national data on truancy rates future problems and should not be
problem behaviors, and an increased are not available (in part because no uni- ignored. This Bulletin should assist
likelihood of incarceration (Bell, Rosen, form definition of truancy exists), many our efforts to give it the attention it
and Dynlacht, 1994; Dryfoos, 1990; Haw- large cities report staggering rates of tru- requires.
kins and Catalano, 1995; Ingersoll and ancy and chronic absenteeism.2 Some
LeBoeuf, 1997; Rohrman, 1993). large cities report that unexcused ab-
sences can number in the thousands
on certain days (Heaviside et al., 1998). Correlates of Truancy toward education are also important
In Detroit, MI, for example, school atten- Preliminary findings from OJJDPs evalua- factors in the community.
dance officials investigated 66,440 com- tion of TRDP (see page 9) confirm previous
plaints of chronic absenteeism during the findings that, in general, the correlates of Predictor of Delinquency
199495 school year, and in Chicago, IL, the truancy fall into four broad categories: Truancy has been clearly identified as one
average 10th grader missed 6 weeks of in-
of the early warning signs that youth are
structional time during the 199596 school Family factors. These include lack
headed for potential delinquent activity,
year (Garry, 1996; Roderick et al., 1997). of guidance or parental supervision,
social isolation, and/or educational failure.
A national review of discipline issues in domestic violence, poverty, drug or
Several studies have established lack of
schools conducted in 199697 found that alcohol abuse in the home, lack of
commitment to school as a risk factor for
public school principals identified student awareness of attendance laws, and
substance abuse, delinquency, teen preg-
absenteeism, class cutting, and tardiness differing attitudes toward education.
nancy, and dropping out of school (Bell,
as the top discipline problems in their School factors. These include school Rosen, and Dynlacht, 1994; Dryfoos, 1990;
schools (Heaviside et al., 1998). climate issuessuch as school size and Huizinga, Loeber, and Thornberry, 1995;
In general, the proportion of truancy attitudes of teachers, other students, Rohrman, 1993). Decades of research have
cases handled in juvenile court is rela- and administratorsand inflexibility in also identified a link between truancy and
tively small. However, the juvenile justice meeting the diverse cultural and learn- later problems such as violence, marital
system is increasingly serving as the final ing styles of the students. Schools often problems, job problems, adult criminality,
stop for truants and as a mechanism for have inconsistent procedures in place and incarceration (Dryfoos, 1990; Cat-
intervening with chronic truants. Recent for dealing with chronic absenteeism alano et al., 1998; Robins and Ratcliff,
statistics available on the extent of truan- and may not have meaningful conse- 1978; Snyder and Sickmund, 1995).
cy cases in juvenile court clearly demon- quences available for truant youth
(e.g., out-of-school suspension). More recent studies, such as OJJDPs
strate how important it is for schools
Program of Research on the Causes and
and communities to confront this issue. Economic influences. These include Correlates of Delinquency,3 indicate that
In 1998, truancy accounted for 26 percent employed students, single-parent truancy may be a precursor to serious
of all formally handled status offense homes, high mobility rates, parents violent and nonviolent offenses and that
cases, representing an 85-percent in- who hold multiple jobs, and a lack of the connection between truancy and
crease in truancy cases in juvenile court affordable transportation and childcare. delinquency appears to be particularly
since 1989 (from 22,200 cases in 1989 to
Student variables. These include drug acute among males (Kelley et al., 1997).
41,000 cases in 1998) (Puzzanchera et al.,
and alcohol abuse, lack of understand- In addition, findings from OJJDPs Study
forthcoming).
ing of attendance laws, lack of social Group on Very Young Offenders indicate
A closer look reveals that the number of competence, mental health difficulties, that chronic truancy in elementary school
petitioned truancy cases around the coun- and poor physical health. is linked to serious delinquent behavior
try is about evenly divided between boys Although not mentioned specifically, the at age 12 and under (Loeber and Farring-
and girls and that whereas the majority of community significantly influences the ton, 2000).
petitioned truancy cases involve 15-year- occurrence of truancy as well. Community
olds, there have been petitioned cases factors are folded into the above four Juvenile Daytime Crime
involving boys and girls as young as 10 areas. For example, economic conditions In several jurisdictions, law enforcement
(Puzzanchera et al., forthcoming). and differing culturally based attitudes officials have linked high rates of truancy
to daytime burglary and vandalism (Ba-
ker, 2000). Before TRDP started, for exam-
ple, police in Tacoma, WA (one of OJJDPs
TRDP sites), reported that one-third of
burglaries and one-fifth of aggravated
assaults occurring between 8 a.m. and 1
p.m. on weekdays were committed by
juveniles. In Contra Costa County, CA
(another TRDP site), police reported that
60 percent of juvenile crime occurred be-
tween 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays.
These daytime juvenile crime rates were a
primary reason that sites began imple-
menting TRDP.

Social and Financial Impact


Students with the highest truancy rates
have the lowest academic achievement
rates, and because truants are the youth
most likely to drop out of school, they
have high dropout rates as well (Dynarski

2
and Gleason, 1999). The consequences lives in Tucson, the county seat. Between Critical to the truancy programs suc-
of dropping out of school are well docu- 1991 and 1995, Pima Countys truancy cess would be the active participation of
mented. School dropouts have signifi- rates were among the highest in the State, school districts, local schools, law en-
cantly fewer job prospects, make lower accounting for more than 50 percent of forcement offices, and community agen-
salaries, and are more often unemployed the States chronic truancies (Bernat, cies, all of which have some responsibility
than youth who stay in school (U.S. De- 1996). In addition to high truancy rates, for educating, providing services to,
partment of Education, 1993). According Pima Countys juvenile arrest rates were assisting, or intervening with youth.
to a recent report from the Bureau of higher than the State average (National
Labor Statistics (2001:2), 6.0 percent of Center for Juvenile Justice, 1996). Statis- Armed with a vision, a concrete plan, and
workers with a high school diploma were tics also showed that in 1993, 8,720 juve- printed materials, PCAO invited more than
in poverty [in 1999], considerably lower niles were referred to the Juvenile Court 100 key stakeholders to convene and dis-
than the proportion of those who had not Center, and between 1993 and 1996, the cuss the problem of truancy. The tradi-
completed high school (14.3 percent). number of referrals increased approxi- tional response to truancy in the county
High school dropouts are also more likely mately 23 percent, to 10,773. Since 1993, had been to process the youth through
to depend on welfare, experience unstable the most frequent type of referral (ac- the juvenile court, which often resulted
marriages, and serve time in prison than counting for roughly one-quarter of all in diversion with no consequences. As a
those who complete their schooling (Sny- referrals) has been for status offenses, result, school administrators had lacked
der and Sickmund, 1995; U.S. Department which include truancy.4 confidence in the process and welcomed
of Education, 1993). the new law and the new strategy for ad-
During 1993 and 1994, a statewide work- dressing truancy. With the interest and
The financial impact of truancy and the ing group in Arizona focused attention on support of school administrators, PCAO
dropouts that result can be measured in youth crime and developed recommenda- moved forward with its program for the
a number of ways: tions for prevention and early interven- 199495 school year. The program, Abol-
tion. To address truancy and youth crime, ish Chronic Truancy (ACT) Now, became
Less educated workforce. the group recommended approaches that a cooperative effort among PCAO, the
Business loss because of youth who focus on the root causes of poor school schools, law enforcement, and community
hang out and/or shoplift during attendance, such as lack of parental con- organizations/agencies that provide ser-
the day. trol due to insufficient parenting skills, vices to youth and families.
Higher daytime crime rates (in some child abuse or neglect in the home, and
family instability. The group also suggested During the initial stages, no community
cases). agency was available to partner with
that requiring parents to ensure that their
Cost of social services for families of children are supervised and holding par- PCAO to provide case management or
children who are habitually truant. ents accountable would increase school services to truant youth and their fami-
attendance and decrease juvenile crime. lies. Thus, in the first program year, PCAO
Truancy, however, has an even more
The working groups recommendations received referrals directly from schools
direct financial impact on communities:
resulted in an amendment to the State and coordinated the diversion program.
the loss of Federal and State education
compulsory school attendance law to A community-based nonprofit agency, the
funding.
include criminal sanctions for parents or Center for Juvenile Alternatives (CJA), was
guardians who do not ensure that their established in spring 1995 in Pima County
OJJDPs Response to to provide an alternative to the institu-
Truancy children attend school.
tional detention of status offenders, to
OJJDP is committed to identifying what To address key risk factors associated take on case management responsibilities
works in preventing and reducing truancy with youth crimepoor school atten- for the ACT Now program, and to provide
and has supported numerous truancy ini- dance and truancyone of the working services as part of the program to youth
tiatives and evaluations, two of which are group members, PCAOs deputy county and their families. During the latter half
described in the sections that follow: ACT attorney, initiated the development of a of 1995, CJA became firmly established,
Nowa prosecutor-led program in Pima PCAO truancy diversion program. Armed and ACT Now became a fully coordinated
County, AZand TRDP. with the new law that strengthened the interagency response to truancy.5
enforcement of the existing compulsory
As envisioned, ACT Now was to create and
school attendance statute by creating
The ACT Now Program implement a sound, uniform enforcement
criminal fines and penalties for parents,
plan that would not require significant
The Pima County Attorneys Office (PCAO) PCAO formulated its truancy plan to in-
investment of resources. The expressed
in Arizona is among the many prosecu- clude three key elements:
purpose of the program was to return the
tors offices nationwide that have recog- Enforcement of the mandatory at- habitually truant minor to school through
nized truancy as a significant problem and tendance law by holding parents the coordination and cooperation of partic-
designed alternatives to adjudication by accountable. ipating schools, prosecution, law enforce-
intervening with truants to prevent subse- ment, and CJA. ACT Now is grounded in
quent delinquent and criminal behavior. Provision of a diversion program that
offers services to address the root the philosophy that a breakdown in paren-
Pima County, located in the southeastern causes of truancy. tal supervision has occurred, resulting in
portion of Arizona, is the second most truancy, curfew violations, and juvenile
populous county in the State, with an esti- Sanctions for parents and youth for con- involvement in a wide range of criminal
mated population of more than 780,000 tinued truancy or failure to complete and other unacceptable behaviors. The
people. More than half of the population the diversion program successfully. program design consists of several steps:

3
Participating schools monitor atten-
dance closely and, after the first unex- American Prosecutors Research Institute
cused absence, send a letter to parents
advising them of the potential for pros- The American Prosecutors Research Institute (APRI) is a nonprofit research and
ecution.6 The letter states that the program development resource that provides prosecutors with training and curricu-
lum development, technical assistance, and consultation services and also pro-
school is working in close cooperation
duces publications and conducts research. Since its inception in 1984, APRI has
with PCAOs Truancy Enforcement
become a vital resource and national clearinghouse for information on the pros-
Program and that if the youth has at
ecutorial function and has supplied the field with interdisciplinary responses to the
least three unexcused absences, his complex problems of crime and delinquency. For more information, visit APRIs
or her attendance record will be for- Web site at www.ndaa-apri.org/apri/Index.html.
warded to the program.
After the third unexcused absence, a
truancy referral form with identifying
purposeto prevent chronic truancy determination of when a student is tru-
data and other background informa-
by holding parents accountable and of- ant to school officials.
tion, the youths official attendance
fering deferred prosecution along with Establishment of a minimum number
record, and a notarized affidavit certi-
serviceshas held constant since its in- of absences before a student is referred
fying the unexcused absences are sent
ception, the programs operation evolved to CJA, while recognizing local school
to CJA.7
significantly in its first 2 years, resulting decisionmaking in determining when
Upon referral, parents are notified that in improved practice and expanded reach. a referral is appropriate.
they may be subject to misdemeanor The following components of the ACT
prosecution and their child to filing of Now program appear to have contributed Use of a new source of leverage in
a truancy petition in juvenile court. to its successful implementation: responding to truancy (the threat of
Parents are offered the opportunity to parental prosecution) and a consistent
participate in a diversion program and Clearly stated goals and objectives that response when schools refer parents
are asked to contact CJA. address a problem of concern to com- of truant students to CJA after a mini-
munity stakeholders and provide a mum of three unexcused absences.
Upon contacting CJA, parents or guard- basis for a program in which commu-
ians are offered a deferred prosecution nities can participate. A coordinated response that includes
diversion program and asked to sign a services to address the underlying
written contract outlining terms of the Consistent written guidelines on pro- causes of truancy.
agreement. gram procedures, including sample
letters to parents (in both English and Allocation of CJA and PCAO staff, who
The parents who accept deferred pros- Spanish) and referral forms. work cooperatively with schools and
ecution are referred to community law enforcement agencies in coordi-
agencies that provide access to coun- Annual training for key school adminis- nating a communitywide response to
seling, parenting skills classes, and sup- trators who can discuss program goals truancy.
port groups for the youth and parents. and procedures; provision of CJA and
PCAO contacts who can answer school Enforcement of attendance statutes to
Referrals are made based on CJAs psy- send a consistent message to parents
chosocial evaluations of truants and administrators questions about refer-
rals throughout the year. and youth regarding the seriousness of
their families to determine the root truancy.
causes of the truancy. Clear delegation of the development
of an attendance policy and the Effective use of media coverage of the
Successful adherence to the terms program and its associated truancy
of the deferred prosecution contract
by parents results in case dismissal.8

Process and Implementation


Outcomes
In 1996, OJJDP awarded a grant to the
American Prosecutors Research Institute
(APRI) to conduct an evaluation of ACT
Now. Full evaluation results, documenting
both the implementation process and
program outcomes, are found in Abolish
Chronic Truancy Now Diversion Program:
Evaluation Report (Sigmon, Nugent, and
Engelhardt-Greer, 1999).9
APRIs process evaluation documented
the planning, implementation, evolution,
and operation of ACT Now from the
time the program was initiated through
the 199798 school year. Evaluation re-
sults indicate that, while the programs

4
sweeps to increase the communitys 199596), there were few truancy referrals. year. After the program procedures were
awareness of truancy, its conse- During this time, schools made referrals more clearly articulated to school adminis-
quences, and efforts to combat it. directly to PCAO, and the policy of system- trators, the number of advisory letters
Two key shortcomings of the program atic dissemination of information to refer- sent and parental response to the letters
were identified. First, at the time of the ring schools was not yet in place. When increased.
evaluation, the program had not imple- ACT Now became fully operational and
reporting procedures were formalized, the Truants whose parents failed to address
mented a consistent method for providing the attendance problem or participate in
timely feedback to schools about the sta- number of schools reporting truancies
(and the ratio of schools that reported to the ACT Now program were referred by
tus of their referrals to CJA and the inter- CJA to PCAO for prosecution. Between
ventions outcome or whether a case was those that participated) increased sub-
stantially. This increase is a strong indica- 1994 and 1998, PCAO handled 674 truancy
being prosecuted. Second, the computer- cases. The number of such defendants
ized database and case tracking system tion of school administrators confidence
in the program and reflects significant increased over time, from 50 in 199495 to
originally envisioned by PCAO did not 372 in 199798. Between the 199596 and
materialize, and the collection of data to change in reporting processes.
199697 school years, the number of de-
track cases and monitor program out- How does the threat of prosecution af- fendants increased 171 percent (from 68
comes and effectiveness was not fully fect whether parents ensure that their to 184); similarly, a 102-percent increase
implemented until fall 1997. Although the children attend school? Evaluators in the number of defendants occurred
program has taken steps to address both looked at two measures to determine the between the 199697 and 199798 school
issues, evaluators recommended contin- answer to this question: (1) the number of years (from 184 to 372). Overall, nearly
ued improvement in these two areas. advisory letters sent to parents compared 65 percent of the cases represented tru-
Conscientious followthrough with all with the number of subsequent referrals ants between ages 13 and 15, and 22
program participants is required for the to CJA; and (2) PCAO prosecution of par- percent involved truants between ages
program to be effective in the future. ents. APRI hypothesized that if the pro- 10 and 12. The youngest truants, ages
The successful cooperation and collabo- cess has an effect on parental accounta- 6 to 9, represented approximately 11
ration among agencies involved in the bility, the number of referrals should be percent of the cases.
program have contributed significantly less than the number of advisory letters
sent to parents, indicating that action had Using prosecutorial discretion, PCAO did
to the programs success and represent not file charges in all 674 cases. An analy-
an unintended consequence of its im- been taken to address the truancy. Partici-
pating schools countywide sent a total of sis of PCAO truancy case processing by
plementation. As a result of these activi- school year shows that the majority of
ties, community stakeholders have devel- 2,870 advisory letters to parents or guardi-
ans of truant youth between 1995 and cases were closed with no disposition,
oped new links that will serve as the primarily because a parent or guardian
basis for future joint activities of benefit 1998. During the same period, schools
made 1,118 referrals to CJA based on the could not be located. More than half of
to the community. the cases were closed in school years
parents or guardians failure to address
truancy, a number substantially less than 199495 and 199596. By the 199697
Evidence of Effectiveness the number of advisory letters sent. Thus, school year, the number of cases closed
APRI focused on answering several key the threat of prosecution prompted 61 per- without PCAO action decreased, and more
questions about the programs effective- cent of parents or guardians to take cor- parents were prosecuted, specifically:
ness by collecting data on attendance rective action. When the effect on parental In school year 199495, 27 percent of
rates (year-end attendance), number of response is examined by school year, how- cases were prosecuted.
truancies and dropouts, referrals to CJA ever, a marked decrease is seen between
and PCAO, services provided to youth In school year 199596, 23 percent of
the 199596 and 199697 school yearsin
and their families, and successful program cases were prosecuted.
199596, 86 percent of parents took correc-
completion/case disposition. A sample tive action, as compared with only 21 per- In school year 199697, 41 percent of
of four participating school districts was cent in 199697. This variation over time cases were prosecuted.
selected for a more indepth analysis of can be attributed to a number of changes In school year 199798, 41 percent of
service delivery outcomes in the 199798 that were occurring in the program. cases were prosecuted.
school year and attendance/truancy pat-
terns over time. The key questions (and The decrease in the number of advisory Of those cases that were not closed by
findings) of this evaluation follow. letters sent by schools and in subsequent PCAO, the majority resulted in guilty pleas,
program referrals between the 199596 and of those that were resolved through a
What impact has ACT Now had on and the 199697 school years can be linked bench trial, 98 percent were found guilty.
school response to truancy and report- to the fact that ACT Now had not yet been The most commonly imposed sanctions
ing practices? The number of truancy formalized in 199596. Also, the 199596 included community service or a $200
referrals has increased steadily (from 46 school year was the first year that schools fine. In ACT Nows initial phase (during
in the 199495 school year to 332 in the referred truancies directly to CJA rather the 1994 to 1996 school years), almost
199798 school year) as has the number than PCAO. CJA offered very little outreach half of those prosecuted (42.9 percent)
of schools making referrals to ACT Now. to the schools during this time to explain were sentenced to perform community
Data indicate that since the programs their role or to build confidence among service and slightly more than one-third
pilot phase in 199596, program aware- school administrators in the procedures. (35.7 percent) were fined.
ness has increased and truancy reporting Both factors may account for the decrease
has improved. In the years prior to full in parental response in the 199697 school By the 199697 school year, the range of
program implementation (199495 and sanctions had expanded to include higher

5
finesbetween $300 and $500suggesting referred. Services were recommended whether the number of truancies had
a stronger attempt by the juvenile court only for those youth whose parents re- changed.12
and PCAO to hold parents accountable. sponded either to the first or second CJA
Each school district showed a decrease
In fact, during this period the number of advisory letter (57 percent).
in the number of truancies between the
parents/guardians who took corrective
action to address the truancy before being Of the parents who did not respond to the 199697 and 199798 school years, rang-
referred for prosecution increased sub- letters, more than one-third were referred ing from a decrease of 64 percent in the
stantially. Fewer community service sanc- for parental prosecution. For others of largest school district to 4 percent in the
tions and more sentences of unsupervised these parents (roughly 10 percent), the smallest. The truancy rate for the largest
probation and payment of fines were im- case was closed and no recommendations district in the sample originally had been
posed. One explanation for the change in were made because the parents or youth among the highest in the State, and thus
types of sanctions imposed is that the could not be located or had moved, the the observed decrease is dramatic.
community service option did not work youth was in an out-of-home placement,
Another measure of the programs effec-
as originally planned. Under the initial the youth was being home schooled, or
tiveness was the examination of recidi-
program plans, schools were to develop the school withdrew the referral. Of the
vism. Because truancy data on individuals
community service projects at the school youth who were referred to services,
were unavailable, APRI used the number
for parents to complete as part of their 79 percent successfully completed the
of dropouts as a proxy variable for sub-
sentence. Schools were reluctant and, as program and the charges were dismissed.
sequent, chronic truant behavior (i.e.,
a result, few developed such projects. As shown in the table below, parental
recidivism). If ACT Now is effective in
Anecdotal information gathered during response to the first letter from CJA is a
addressing chronic truancy, there should
site visits and through telephone inter- strong predictor of successful program
be a decrease in the number of dropouts
views indicates that because the com- completion.
relative to the number of truancies being
munity service concept did not work as Preliminary evidence suggests that the reported. Such a finding would provide
planned, it was phased out as a sentenc- provision of services has a lasting effect initial support for the hypothesis that
ing option. on subsequent truancy and parental su- ACT Now is effective in breaking the cycle
Are truant youth and their parents or pervision. In the 199798 school year, only of truancy before it leads to dropping out
guardians receiving adequate services to 33 of the 394 youth (8 percent) referred of school. With the exception of the two
address the root causes of the truancy? from the four school districts in the sam- smaller school districts, both of which
CJA conducts an intake assessment before ple were recidivists, suggesting that ACT experienced a slight increase in the num-
making any service referrals. Services are Now and related services have an effect ber of dropouts, the cumulative number
tailored to the specific needs of truant on truancy.11 Ideally, tracking youth of truancies and dropouts decreased from
individual-level data to assess prior per- the 199697 to the 199798 school year. In
youth and their families to address the
formance in the program would provide addition, the largest decrease in dropouts
root causes of truancy in addition to other
a further indication of the strength of the correlated with the largest decrease in tru-
factors related to family social and physi-
relationship between successful program ancy rates.
cal health. Services range from assess-
completion and recidivism. However, the
ments to evaluations to counseling to liv- Although these figures suggest that ACT
data available for this evaluation were
ing assistance. In the 199596 school year, Now is effective in reducing chronic tru-
insufficient for such indepth analysis.
CJA staff made only 197 service referrals, ancy and school dropouts, no further
but by the following school year, the num- How has the number of truancies and concrete conclusions can be drawn from
ber of referrals had increased to 593.10 dropouts changed during the program? these data because the number of truan-
The majority of referrals were for counsel- Two variables were used to assess cies reported does not equal the number
ing, intensive case management services, changes in truancy and dropout rates: of youth who have been truant. Truancy
and participation in the ACT Well class, school reports of the number of truancies data on individuals are necessary to de-
a 6-hour program designed to provide and the cumulative number of dropouts. termine whether the proportion of drop-
information to youth and parents and Data were collected from PCAO and the outs to truants has changed over time.
help them build skills to prevent truancy. four sample school districts for the 1996 Moreover, without individual truancy and
The increase in referrals continued in the 97 and 199798 school years to determine dropout data, it is impossible to make
199798 school year; the majority of the
714 referrals made were for intake assess-
ment followed by other services, such as Relationship Between Parents Response to Letters and Completion of
counseling, case management, and con-
Program (199798 School Year)
flict resolution.
Program Successfully Program Not
To further assess service delivery, addi- Completed Completed Total
tional individual-level data were collected Response to
for the four school districts in the evalua- Letter Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
tion sample. In the 199798 school year,
First 119 86.2 19 13.8 138 100
the first year individual-level data were
Second 34 73.9 12 26.1 46 100
available, 394 youth from the four school
Total 153 83.2 31 16.8 184 100
districts included in the evaluation were
referred to CJA. CJA recommended serv- Note: Chi-square=3.737; p=0.05.
ices for more than half of all the youth

6
concrete statements about the relation- developing the structure of their truancy with and provide services to truant youth
ship between truancy and dropping out reduction effort, OJJDP and its partnering and their families. OJJDPs Comprehensive
of school. agencies relied on lessons learned from Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic
and key principles of other truancy and Juvenile Offenders highlights the critical
Overall Assessment risk prevention initiatives that have need for this collaboration: Comprehen-
shown promising results. sive, communitywide prevention requires
ACT Now has developed into an institu-
collaboration and resource sharing. In
tionalized response to truancy in Pima A comprehensive, collaborative model
most communities, barriers must be bro-
County. The schools, law enforcement, that targets the reduction of risk factors
ken down and collaborative bridges built
PCAO, service providers, and the local associated with incidence of truancy was
among and within agencies, organizations,
media see the program as an integral suggested by the Youth Out of the Edu-
and groups with responsibility for ad-
part of the communitys efforts to address cation Mainstream (YOEM) Initiative14
dressing juvenile delinquency (Howell,
truancy and associated problems that put and is further supported in the literature
1995:26). For example, schools need to
youth at high risk of serious delinquent (Catalano et al., 1998; Dryfoos, 1990; Mor-
interact more effectively with community
behavior. ley and Rossman, 1997; Schorr, 1997). The
organizations (businesses, senior organi-
models that show the most promise, not
Overall, ACT Now has become a new zations, local government, social services
only of reducing truancy, but also of af-
source of leverage for schools to respond organizations, health agencies, and civic
fecting its risk factors, include several
to truancy and has allowed for a more con- organizations) to achieve their education-
key components:
sistent response when schools make refer- al goals. Such collaboration needs to ex-
rals to CJA. Critical to this process was the Parental involvement. ist within the school system as well
establishment of a minimum number of among teachers, administrators, teaching
Meaningful sanctions or consequences
absences before a referral was made and assistants, special education teachers,
for truancy.
a recognition of local schools decision- parents, and students (Howell, 1995).
making authority in determining when a Meaningful incentives for school
referral is appropriate. In addition, the attendance. TRDP Demonstration Sites
relationships built among the schools, law Ongoing school-based truancy reduc- In 1998, OJJDP solicited applications from
enforcement, the juvenile court, and PCAO tion programs. communities that were engaged in inte-
are an important program outcome. grated, communitywide plans to reduce
Involvement of community resources
The outcome evaluation supports APRIs (e.g., law enforcement). truancy. Applicants were required to
finding that ACT Now has resulted in a co- outline a comprehensive program that
Based on her extensive work with suc-
ordinated response to truancy that is em- included four major components:
cessful prevention models targeting at-risk
braced by the schools, law enforcement, youth and families across the country, A continuum of services to support
the prosecutor, and the courts. This re- Schorr (1997) concludes such programs truant youth and their families.
sponse is evidenced by the number of tru- must:
ancy sweeps, CJA referrals, services pro- System reform and accountability.
vided to youth and their parents, parental Be comprehensive, flexible, responsive, Data collection (from schools, agen-
prosecutions, guilty pleas, and the in- and persevering. cies, courts) and evaluation.
creasing monetary sanctions imposed. View children in the context of their A community education and awareness
ACT Now also appears to have an effect families. program that addresses the need to
on parental accountability and school
Deal with families as parts of neighbor- prevent truancy and intervene with
attendance.
hoods and communities. truant youth.
This evidence, however, must be inter- In 1999, OJJDP awarded funds to eight
Have a long-term, preventive orienta-
preted carefully, as it is based primarily sites, a mixture of Weed and Seed and
tion and a clear mission and continue
on aggregate data. Individual data on non-Weed and Seed sites (one, Georgia,
to evolve over time.
truants, parents, and recidivism would declined to apply for continuation after
provide stronger evidence. In addition, Be well managed by competent and
the first year). The seven remaining sites
information from parents regarding their committed individuals with clearly
are diverse in geography, ethnicity, socio-
perceptions of the ACT Now program and identifiable skills.
economic status, and community-based
its impact on their supervision of school Have staff who are trained and sup- leadership. Common to the truant popula-
attendance would further enhance the ported to provide high-quality, re- tion at all sites is the high representation
current evaluations findings. sponsive services. of minority students and families and of
Operate in settings that encourage students and families living in poverty.
Truancy Reduction practitioners to build strong relation- Sites received either $50,000 or $100,000
Demonstration ships based on mutual trust and per year for 3 years. The disparity in
respect. funding was due to the assumption that
Program the Weed and Seed sites (funded at
One of the most important elements of
In 1998, OJJDP, the Executive Office for any effective prevention effort is the exis- $50,000) would need less money for start-
Weed and Seed, and the U.S. Department tence of a collaborative partnership of up and planning because the program
of Educations Safe and Drug-Free Schools public agencies, community organizations, would exist within the local Weed and
Program initiated a demonstration grant and concerned individuals that interact Seed effort. While the demonstration
program for truancy reduction.13 In

7
was added to address prevention and Suffolk County Probation Department
Colorado Foundation for early intervention at two elementary (Weed and Seed site), Yaphank, NY.
Families and Children schools, where an onsite case manager Suffolk Countys South Country Truancy
monitors attendance and provides early Reduction Program, which builds on com-
The Colorado Foundation for Families outreach. munity policing efforts, targets elementary
and Children (CFFC) is a private, non- and middle school students who have ille-
profit organization that promotes the Clarke County School District (Weed and
gal absences. A probation officer monitors
health, education, and well-being Seed site), Athens, GA. Clarke Countys
attendance in collaboration with school
of children and families through re- Reducing Truancy in Middle Grades pro-
personnel, facilitates access to school and
search, program development, and gram employed a case manager who
evaluation of promising community-
community-based services needed by the
worked directly with students at two mid-
based activities. CFFC accomplishes student and family to establish regular
dle schools to identify youth with five or
this by assisting in the formation of school attendance, and observes attend-
more unexcused absences. The case man-
partnerships between governmental ance and other school-based indicators to
ager made home visits, called parents,
and private entities to support the ensure that the students attendance and
and facilitated parent-teacher conferences
community implementation of effec- engagement at school are improving. A
to assess the causes of truancy. The case
tive practices. In addition to evaluat- similar model is in existence at the local
manager provided referrals to community-
ing TRDP, CFFC oversees the evalu- high school.
based resources and some direct services
ation of several truancy projects in
Colorado. For more information,
to families. In addition, students and fami- Mayors Anti-Gang Office (Weed and
visit CFFCs Web site at www. lies who did not respond to the programs Seed site), Houston, TX. The Mayors
coloradofoundation.org. For informa- case management approach were sum- Anti-Gang Office placed an experienced
tion about CFFCs evaluation of moned to appear before an attendance case manager in one high school to identi-
TRDP, visit www.coloradofoundation. panel. This site declined to apply for con- fy students with chronic truancy patterns.
org/nationaltruancyproject. tinuation after the first year and is no Through home visits and school-based
longer participating in TRDP. supports, students and their families are
provided with services, support, and re-
University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI. The
sources to address truancy. The program
sites/programs listed below were being University of Hawaii is building on a previ-
also works with community police offi-
chosen, OJJDP selected the Colorado ous program to prevent truancy in the
cers, who provide a knock and talk
Foundation for Families and Children Waianae area. Attendance officers in two
service for youth and their families when
(CFFC) as the national evaluator of this elementary schools work to provide early
truancy continues to be an issue. The
project. outreach to young students and their
officers assess family functioning and
families when absences become chronic.
Department of Health and Human deliver information about the law and
Community resources are used to address
Services/Weed and Seed Office, Contra truancy outcomes; they also issue the
the issues that may prevent youth from
Costa County, CA. Contra Costa County official summons to court for a truancy
attending school regularly. In addition, the
is building on its Weed and Seed efforts petition.
schools work with the Honolulu police
to implement a program targeting ninth
department to provide Saturday truancy King County Superior Court, Seattle,
grade students with a history of chronic
workshops for youth with chronic truancy WA. After a truancy petition is filed,
truancy and their families. An onsite pro-
problems and their families. families have the option of attending
bation officer will deliver the intervention
by assessing families and youth and refer-
ring them to appropriate resources within
the school and community.
State Attorneys Office, Jacksonville, FL.
The State Attorneys Office provides a
precourt diversion program for truant
youth and their families. The school dis-
trict refers families to the program when
chronic truancy has not been solved by
school-based intervention. Following the
referral, a hearing is conducted with the
parent, youth, school attendance social
worker, and volunteer hearing officer. A
contract is negotiated that includes plans
for reducing truancy and accessing serv-
ices and community supports. A case
manager makes home visits and monitors
the familys compliance with the plan. In
the fall of 2000, a school-based component

8
an evening workshop, participating in a collected. Indicators for success evaluated moving from home to home, school to
community truancy board hearing, or pro- across all sites include school attendance, school), high rates of school discipline,
ceeding to court on the charges. The work- school discipline, and academic achieve- and overrepresentation of special educa-
shop includes education about truancy ment. Each site has been empowered to tion eligibility.
law and outcomes and facilitates planning further tailor its individual evaluation to
between the parent and youth for address- Of the data elements requested, only at-
track additional outcomes that may be of
ing the cause of truancy. Community tru- tendance rates, eligibility for free and
local interest. For example, some sites are
ancy boards composed of local community reduced-price lunches, and special educa-
questioning participating students and
members hear the case, develop a plan tion rates were reported reliably. These
families about their awareness of existing
for use with the youth and family, and data are provided in figure 1. Because
public outreach efforts to determine the
monitor compliance with the stipulated school districts and States vary in the
efforts efficacy in reaching the target
agreement. In the fall of 2000, a school- way such data are collected and counted,
audience.
based component was added to address the consistency in measures across sites
prevention and early intervention. A survey was administered early in pro- is not yet clear.
gram implementation to assess the type
Safe Streets Campaign (Weed and Seed As an early activity in the evaluation, sites
of information and level of detail that
site), Tacoma, WA. The Tacoma truancy were asked to complete a logic model for
would be available from individual sites.
project is based in one middle school their programs, identifying the targeted
This survey directly informed the empir-
where an onsite coordinator monitors strengths and needs of the students, fami-
ical data collection strategy planned.
attendance and connects youth and their lies, schools, and community. Sites used
Individual-level, schoolwide, and commu-
families with community resources to the model to frame the flow of needs as-
nitywide data on the following elements
address the underlying causes of truancy. sessment, program strategies, measurable
were requested:
This program works in tandem with law milestones, and ultimate results. Youth to
enforcement officials and a truancy center, Individual-level: Demographics of the be in school and succeeding was unani-
to which truant youth are delivered and targeted students and their families mously identified as the expected result
then assessed after pickup by community and targeted students school atten- of the sites truancy programs. Each site
police officers. dance, academic achievement, disci- used the same logic model template to
pline incidents, and so forth. frame its assessment and plan. Because
Schoolwide: Special education rates, each site serves a different community
The National Evaluation and different target population, the
data regarding free and reduced-price
The goal of the evaluation of TRDP is to strengths, needs, strategies, and mile-
lunches, school completion/promotion
describe the process by which inter- stones may differ from site to site. Figure
rates, attendance rates, discipline sta-
agency community-based coalitions de- 2 summarizes the commonalities found
tistics (e.g., suspension, expulsion, of-
velop, implement, and sustain effective across sites (see page 11).
fice referrals), academic achievement
truancy reduction efforts. Sites work with
information, and dropout rates.
the national evaluator to accomplish the The Community-Based
goals of the evaluation. By design, these Communitywide: Truancy petitions
filed and cases heard (including break-
Collaboratives
efforts are intended to build on the com-
munitys strengths: its service organiza- down by age, ethnicity, gender, and The evaluation of community-based col-
tions, social support agencies, businesses, grade level of truant youth), daytime laborative groups depends on multiple
parents, youth, and religious organizations. crime data (including arrests, gang methods to gather information: a survey
In addition, programs should enhance the activity, and commitments of youth to entitled Working Together: A Profile of Col-
awareness of the community, policymak- secure detention facilities), probation laboration (Omni Institute, 1992), one-on-
ers, and stakeholders that truancy pre- and diversion data, comparable data one telephone interviews, onsite group
vention and reduction are necessary com- from a control group (i.e., another interviews, and site-based observations.
ponents of systemic support to keep school), and other data involving is- The information collected during the first
youth in school and out of the juvenile sues such as substance abuse, child year is considered a baseline and will help
justice system. welfare, and mental health. evaluators understand the context in
which each program exists.
The evaluation has two main compon- All sites may not have all of the data
ents: determining whether the programs available; however, most key correlates Working Together measures the percep-
reduce truancy and describing the role and indicators are available to inform tions of group members in five key areas:
and processes of the community-based the evaluation. context, structure, membership, process,
collaboratives driving the local programs. and results. Survey results are intended
The collaboratives processes also are Program Context to be used as a springboard for action
being evaluated to help other sites in planning. Evaluators administer the in-
To date, contextual data describing the
their implementation plans. strument annually and inform each site of
schools and communities in which the
the results on a yearly basis. During the
programs are situated indicate that pri-
The design for program evaluation is first year that Working Together was
mary correlates with truancy and school
multimodal. As sites implement their pro- administered, evaluators received 82
disengagement include poverty, low aca-
grams and begin to serve students and completed surveys (about 11 surveys
demic achievement, high mobility (e.g.,
families, numeric and descriptive data are

9
Telephone interviews, which will be held
Figure 1: School-Based Context of TRDP annually, were conducted with partici-
pants from six sites in the first year.15
A total of 24 interviewsapproximately
School Attendance Rates 4 per sitewere completed with represen-
tatives from law enforcement, schools,
Athens, GA 93.3 courts, and community-based organiza-
tions who were active in the community-
Honolulu, HI 98.0 based groups. The interviews assessed
participants awareness of the local causes
Houston, TX 88.2 and correlates of truancy, their perceptions
of the presence of needed partners in the
Jacksonville, FL 86.0 collaborative task force, the state of inter-
Tacoma, WA agency collaboration, and the need for poli-
89.2
cy change.
Yaphank, NY 93.4 Interviewees all indicated their communi-
ties had been working on truancy issues
75 80 85 90 95 100 for at least 2 years. As they reported, the
causes of truancy, in general, fell into four
Percent broad categories: family factors, school
factors, economic influences, and student
Free and Reduced-Price Lunch Eligibility variables (see page 2 for a more detailed
discussion of these factors).
Athens, GA 60.9 Interview respondents were asked to iden-
tify who should be the collaboratives key
Honolulu, HI 80.0 members (see figure 4, page 12). The ma-
jority identified law enforcement, youth
Houston, TX 52.0 services, juvenile justice agencies, schools,
social services, and community-based or-
Jacksonville, FL 83.0 ganizations as important key members. Al-
though very few mentioned parents, youth,
Tacoma, WA 78.0
the faith community, businesses, and so-
Yaphank, NY 21.9 cial organizations, these individuals and
organizations are also key members of tru-
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 ancy collaboratives.
Respondents were then asked if all need-
Percent
ed partners identified above were at the
table. The majority indicated that all nec-
Special Education Eligibility essary stakeholders were present (see
figure 5, page 12); some realized they
Athens, GA were missing important members of the
16.9
communitytypically identified were the
Honolulu, HI 11.7 faith and business communities.
Onsite interviews, which will be held
Houston, TX 9.0 annually, suggested that many of the
collaboratives were unclear about their
Tacoma, WA 22.0
group vision or mission and hence about
Yaphank, NY 16.4 their goals and necessary steps to achieve
goals.
0 5 10 15 20 25 Site-based observations are still being
compiled, as some sites were not oper-
Percent
ational at the time this Bulletin was writ-
Note: Data unavailable for Contra Costa County, CA, and Seattle, WA. Special education data ten. In addition, the operational sites did
unavailable for Jacksonville, FL. not always understand the purpose of
requests for site visits during which typi-
cal activities would be observed. Hence,
these data are still being collected in
from each of the 7 participating sites). completed the surveys. Figure 3 (page 12) some cases.
Representatives from law enforcement, shows that, on average, sites rated their
courts, schools, mental health agencies, performance and success in each area Specific issues regarding jurisdiction,
and community-based organizations fairly high, with some differences. funding, and the sharing of information

10
Figure 2: Logic Model for TRDP Evaluation
Family School Student Community
Strengths

Communication between Afterschool resources available Knowledge of school Strong agency


school and home Information-sharing established environment collaboration
Knowledge of home with other agencies Desire to be in school Available resources
Knowledge of family needs and succeeding Community center
Tutorial services
Community attendance
panel
Clear laws
Political support
Needs

Basic Positive school climate Education and awareness Service agency


Housing Education and awareness Consequences of truancy coordination
Employment Risk factors for truancy law Streamlined assess-
Childcare Process for truancy referrals Value of education ment and referral
Transportation Early intervention/prevention Available resources Reduced duplication
Education and awareness Services Social/emotional skills of services
Parenting skills Mentoring Adjustment to middle Culturally appropriate
Value of education Tutoring school/high school practices
Community resources Counseling Peer and family Involvement of all
Importance of parental Mediation relationships community partners
involvement at school Alternative programs Coping strategies Police
Truancy and attendance Afterschool programs Behavioral support Faith community
laws Tracking and monitoring Academic support Business community
Addressing cultural attendance Attachment to school Education/awareness/
differences Commitment by administration mobilization
Translation of services Truancy law
Value of education Value of education
Treatment Truancy risk factors
Mental health assessment Process across
Family counseling agencies
Substance abuse intervention
Strategies

Assessment Technical assistance Assessment Development of mission


Resource referral and training Referral statement
Counseling Grants to support efforts Peer programs Assessment of
Education Cross-agency training Truancy education collaborative
Parenting programs Development of districtwide Education about Training conference
attendance policy consequences Public awareness
Development of Social work interventions campaign
afterschool programs Establishment of a
task force
Community training
Milestones

Improved access to Awareness of risk factors Improved peer and Mission and work plan
services More efficient referrals family relationships identified
Improved involvement Community truancy boards Decreased behavior referrals Contract made with
in childs education in place Improved attendance schools
Improved employment Conference planned Improved academics Conference held
Access to childcare Training disseminated Improved access to services Community awareness
and transportation to schools Improved attachment enhanced
Understanding of Understanding of to school Public service
truancy process truancy system announcements
Improved parenting skills Increased program referrals distributed
1,000 families served Improved monitoring of Improved involvement
attendance and valuing of youth
More available services

11
benefit these and future projects that are
Figure 3: Results of Initial (First Year) Administration of seated within a collaborative and multi-
agency setting; sites will be encouraged
Working Together
to use this service in the future.

Context 3.5 Overall Assessment


TRDPs first year has yielded a strong base
Structure 3.3 of information to direct the programs fur-
Domain

ther development. Almost all of the partici-


Membership 3.3 pating sites need much more time, support,
Process and training than anticipated to facilitate a
3.2
successful start, both in program imple-
Results 3.0 mentation and development and in mainte-
nance of the community-based collabora-
0.0 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 tives directing the program.
Access to data, particularly across system
Average Score lines (e.g., schools, courts, law enforce-
ment), continues to require evaluation
Note: n=82 responses. A score of 1=negative, 4=positive.
staff assistance in a variety of ways. To
ensure that the data collected are consis-
tent across sites and that they reflect the
about youth and families are problematic memorandum of understanding. In addi- context in which the program exists, on-
for certain agencies and need to be dealt tion, the collaboratives require continuing going contact is crucialespecially site-
with from the start to enhance implemen- education and need to be made aware of based support on at least a semiannual
tation of the program and the ongoing the importance of involving the communi- basis. The national evaluators can facili-
health of the coalition. As part of the plan- ty at largeparticularly parents, youth, tate information sharing and formalized
ning process, collaboratives should iden- the faith community, and local businesses. agreements that might not otherwise
tify the roles, responsibilities, and under- Parents and youth are required to be in- occur so readily.
standings among cooperating agencies volved, and the faith and local business
In addition, implementing culturally ap-
and formalize agreements by using a communities are key for volunteer, finan-
propriate practices and obtaining family
cial, and in-kind support through services.
involvement continue to be troublesome
CFFC (as national evaluator) offers facili-
for the sites. OJJDP has encouraged sites
tation and action planning services to
Figure 4: Partners Identified as to use resources that can assist in devel-
collaboratives. Such activities can greatly
Necessary to Reduc- oping strategies for improving practices
ing Truancy in these areas.
Early in the project, the evaluation re-
Figure 5: Response to Question
vealed commonalities in structure and
14% Regarding the Pres- planning processes among the seven par-
9% ence of Necessary ticipating programs, such as the existence
Partners of an extensive startup period and a
7%
strong community collaborative. After
examining initial outcome data, evalua-
70% tors will make available implications for
18% best practices in the fall of 2001. Evalu-
ators are tracking outcome data that
6% focus on five target areas: student demo-
graphics, family demographics, a needs
76% assessment, a service plan, and quarterly
Law enforcement, youth serv-
ices, juvenile justice agen- outcomes. Specific outcomes being meas-
cies, schools, social services, ured include improvement in attendance
community-based organizations and academics and reductions in office
Truancy center, mental health referrals, suspensions, expulsions, and
organizations
involvement with the juvenile justice
State attorney, faith-based All present
organizations, hospital, parents
department.
Missing key members
Business community, youth, It is expected that the lessons learned
social organizations Do not know from the diverse TRDP programs about
establishing and maintaining effective
Note: n=18 respondents. Note: n=17 respondents. community-based leadership and

12
4. Retrieved from the Web at www.sc.co.
pima.az.us.
5. Seven school districts (not including
the Tucson Unified School District) partic-
ipate in ACT Now. Of these, the four most
populous were selected to participate in
the evaluation of ACT Now: Amphitheater,
Sunnyside, Marana, and Flowing Wells.
All four are located in the Tucson metro-
politan area, and their total student en-
rollment represents approximately 77 per-
cent of the Pima County public school
students who are not enrolled in the
Tucson Unified School District.
6. Because school attendance is monitored
by an attendance clerk at each school,
attendance clerks and local school admin-
istrators were key figures in program
implementation.
interventions will guide future work by the increase in school absences is a signif- 7. The affidavit certifying the truant stu-
OJJDP and communities to prevent icant challenge. In addition, gaining coop- dents attendance record is a critical
truancy. eration from diverse key community play- component of the prosecution strategy
ers, such as law enforcement, courts, because it obviates the necessity of hav-
social services, parents, and community- ing school officials testify at court pro-
Conclusion based organizations, can be a challenging ceedings in each case. This plan repre-
Chronic truancy has long been identified and time-consuming task. Finally, imple- sented a major inducement to school
as a key predictor for negative outcomes menting effective, data-driven methods administrators, who did not relish the
in education, employment, and social suc- for tracking both the occurrence of truan- notion that staff time could be taken up
cess. The correlates of chronic truancy cy and the impact of programs on key with frequent court appearances.
continue to be holistic in nature and in- indicators of success is a struggle for
clude family, school, economic, and many programs. 8. Prior to the involvement of CJA, partici-
student variables. Several promising pro- pating service providers were asked to
grams are now in existence and, with the submit information to PCAO verifying that
support of OJJDP, are making significant Endnotes referred parents had successfully com-
headway against the truancy problem. 1. The definition of truancy is usually pleted the program and thus complied
established by school district policy and with the terms of the diversion agree-
Programs such as ACT Now and TRDP ment. Later, CJA monitored compliance
may vary across districts. For the pur-
build on the strengths and resources with the terms of the diversion contract.
poses of this Bulletin, truancy is generally
within local communities to target truan-
defined as an unexcused absence from 9. To order this publication, contact
cy from a carrot and stick perspective.
school or class (i.e., an absence without APRIs Research Unit at 7035494253 or
Students and families need both the
the proper approval of appropriate school visit its Web site, www.ndaa-apri.org/apri/
incentive to attend school (the carrot)
officials). Research_and_Development/Research_
and meaningful consequences for chronic
nonattendance (the stick). Truancy is a 2. Generally, absentee rates are highest and_Development.html.
violation of State law as a status offense in public schools in the inner-city where 10. The number of referrals to various
for the youth and educational neglect for larger numbers of students are eligible for services does not represent the number
the parent; addressing the underlying free or reduced-price lunches (Heaviside of youth referred to such services. Youth
issues is necessary for long-term behav- et al., 1998). (Higher truancy rates general- often are referred to multiple services;
ior change. Underlying issues that have ly correlate with poverty; higher rates of however, referral data were only available
been identified by these projects include free and reduced-price lunches are typi- in aggregate form, making it impossible to
family poverty, less education, substance cally used as evidence of poverty.) determine the actual number of youth
abuse, cultural variation in the valuing of who received services.
public education, and pressures on the 3. This series of long-term studies, which
youth to work and provide childcare for have followed thousands of at-risk youth 11. The 199798 school year marks the
younger siblings. in three cities for more than a decade, is first year in which recidivism data were
designed to improve the understanding of tracked.
Implementing a successful, sustainable serious delinquency, violence, and drug
truancy reduction project has its share use by examining how youth develop 12. Ideally, the evaluation would consider
of challenges, as illustrated by ACT Now within the context of family, school, peers, pretest truancy from the 199596 school
and TRDP. Gaining consensus among and community. For more details about year; however, reliable truancy data for
schools to adopt a uniform definition of this program, visit ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ccd. that year were unavailable.
truancy and a standardized approach to

13
13. Weed and Seed is a community-based Dynarski, M., and Gleason, P. 1999. How Morley, E., and Rossman, S.B. 1997.
strategy combining law enforcement and Can We Help? Lessons From Federal Helping At-Risk Youth: Lessons From
human services to improve communities Dropout Prevention Programs. Princeton, Community-Based Initiatives. Washington,
by reducing crime and revitalizing commu- NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. DC: The Urban Institute.
nity involvement and resources. Weed and
Seed requires an active and participating Garry, E.M. 1996. Truancy: First Step to a National Center for Juvenile Justice.
collaborative group, on which the grant Lifetime of Problems. Bulletin. Washington, 1996. Easy Access to FBI Arrest Statistics,
program can theoretically build. D.C. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of 19901994. Pittsburgh, PA: National Center
Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Jus- for Juvenile Justice.
14. YOEM, which was a joint initiative of tice and Delinquency Prevention.
OJJDP and the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Omni Institute. 1992. Working Together:
Program, U.S. Department of Education, Hawkins, J.D., and Catalano, R. 1995. A Profile of Collaboration. Denver, CO:
focused on truants, dropouts, and youth Risk Focused Prevention: Using the Social Omni Institute.
who were fearful of attending school, sus- Development Strategy. Seattle, WA: De-
velopmental Research and Programs, Inc. Puzzanchera, C., Stahl, A., Finnegan, T.,
pended or expelled, or in need of help to Snyder, H., Poole, R., and Tierney, N.
become reintegrated into mainstream Heaviside, S., Rowand, C., Williams, C., Forthcoming. Juvenile Court Statistics 1998.
schools from juvenile detention and cor- and Farris, E. 1998. Violence and Discipline Report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department
rectional settings. Problems in U.S. Public Schools: 199697. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs,
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14
This Bulletin was prepared under grant number
1999MUMU0014 from the Office of Juvenile Acknowledgments
Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. De-
partment of Justice. Myriam L. Baker, Ph.D., is a private consultant specializing in development and
evaluation of programs for at-risk youth and a primary consultant to the Colorado
Points of view or opinions expressed in this Foundation for Families and Children in its evaluation of the Truancy Reduction
document are those of the authors and do not Demonstration Program. Jane Nady Sigmon, Ph.D., is former Director of Research
necessarily represent the official position or at American Prosecutors Research Institute (APRI), and M. Elaine Nugent is cur-
policies of OJJDP or the U.S. Department of rent Director of Research at APRI.
Justice. Photographs pages 2 and 8 copyright 2001 PhotoDisc, Inc.; photographs pages
4 and 13 copyright 1997 PhotoDisc, Inc.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delin-
quency Prevention is a component of the Of-
fice of Justice Programs, which also includes
the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau Share With Your Colleagues
of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of
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