Selma City Schools to address absentee issue in 2024

Published 12:08 pm Friday, January 19, 2024

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Selma City Schools experienced a decline in all scoring facets of the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) report card in December, with the exception of chronic absenteeism. This trend is not unique to Selma City Schools; Dallas County Schools also experienced a rise in chronic absenteeism. Currently, Pre-K, Kindergarten, and the 12th-grade report the highest chronic absenteeism in the Selma City School System.

The upward pattern is not confined to local school districts; it is a nationwide concern. Chronic absenteeism, which doubled post-Covid-19, puts students at risk.

MH/Truancy Services Coordinator Dr. Alisa Smiley-Rudolph, explains “Truancy impacts our school district’s overall Alabama State Report Card in the area of one of the state indicators, Chronic Absenteeism, which in turn can impact other state indicators such as academic achievement and academic growth.”

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In comparing 2023 to 2022, Selma City School’s academic achievement dipped by nearly two points, and academic growth fell by almost 10 points. Smiley-Rudolph emphasizes the importance of community collaboration to tackle chronic absenteeism’s root causes.

National studies highlight the repercussions of chronic absence, impacting students’ reading proficiency, middle school success, and high school graduation. Selma City Schools Superintendent Dr. Zickeyous M. Byrd underscored the need to curb chronic absenteeism, enforce attendance procedures, enhance academic growth with daily interventions, and improve college and career readiness rates through intentional scheduling.

Unfortunately, these areas show a negative trend in 2023, as per the States Accountability Indicators. Smiley-Rudolph stresses the district’s partnership with the Helping Families Initiative, an effort aiming to address attendance barriers and prevent scholars from falling behind.

School officials acknowledge poverty, crime and trauma as major factors affecting the Selma school district. The 2023 tornado inflamed the situation, displacing families just before student testing. The States Accountability Indicators demographic statistics reveal a staggering 1000% increase in the homeless rate for Selma City School kids, up from 0.63% in 2022 to 8.95% in 2023.

Byrd noted the significant impact of the storm on the Meadowview and Sophia P. Kingston communities, with the School of Discovery children taking a direct hit.

“Displacement caused by the 2023 tornado contributed to the absentee issue last year and had a significant impact on truancy,” Smiley Rudolph said. “Many families were in survival mode, along with many of our teachers and other staff. I was without transportation myself during this time last year. It was a tough time, yet the community came together in more ways than one to help one another out. Family members who were with transportation and homes still intact and/or with minimal damages helped other families to get their scholars to school, but this was still a struggle among many displaced families who were truly in survival mode.”

Byrd and Smiley-Rudolph both acknowledge the challenges faced by the Selma City School System and are actively implementing initiatives to address them. Currently, programs like Saints Virtual Academy are helping to bridge the gap by meeting the needs of the community while using technology and other resources.

Smiley-Rudolph added, “In Selma virtual scholars have the flexibility to log in to classes and work independently from home. Thus, transportation is not an issue. If a virtual scholar is ill, he or she can make up assignments from home instead of missing school in person. In addition to this, suspensions are not a major concern with virtual scholars.”

Selma City School officials have proposed proactive measures to address the high absentee rate. Initiatives include bus transportation, community education on the distinction between truancy and chronic absenteeism, implementation of school-specific attendance procedures, staff development, ensuring safe spaces, and community collaboration with leaders and stakeholders.