One-on-one outreach shows promise in cutting school absenteeism

This is a summary of an article by Elaine S. Povich that was originally posted on on February 5, 2024.

Connecticut had an almost 22% chronic absenteeism rate in 2022, up from 9% in 2017, according to Attendance Works and the Everyone Graduates Center. The state in 2021 launched the home-visiting Learner Engagement and Attendance Program, known as LEAP, which came out of the governor’s office and serves students who feel disconnected from school.

Initially, the program was not intended to be directed primarily at absenteeism, but as absenteeism escalated, the program pivoted, according to Mike Meyer, director of family and community engagement in Stamford public schools.

Stamford schools have partnered with the Stamford Youth Services Bureau, a city agency, to address absenteeism. Lily Villanueva, a family outreach worker contracted by the school district from the nonprofit Domus Kids, set up a study group for high schoolers who were chronically absent. Since then, the failing grades of students in the group have turned into passing grades and two are headed to college, she said.

One student, the son of a Haitian immigrant, also connected with an after-school video game program at his school. “They looked forward to going to school that day so they could go to their after-school program,” she said.

“I try to build a relationship with the family,” Villanueva, 26, said in an interview. “It’s all about trust and getting the families to open up to you. We have even gone so far as picking up students from their home and transporting them directly. We do that so we can help them build their routine.”