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Raising attendance rates in Baltimore City schools [Letter]

We read with interest Baltimore City schools CEO Gregory Thornton's commentary about the challenges ahead for the city's schools ("Much work to be done," Aug. 25).

As he indicates, one of the greatest barriers to student achievement is attendance, where there is still substantial work to do. Baltimore continues to suffer from rampant truancy and chronic absenteeism.

What can we do to address this crisis? Since 2005, the University of Baltimore School of Law and its partners have worked with the schools to operate a Truancy Court Program, an early intervention, non-adversarial, non-punitive approach to truancy that aims to identify why children are not attending school and then attempts to resolve the underlying problems or causes.

The program brings together district and circuit court judges along with masters who volunteer to meet with truant students and their parents or caregivers along with a team of school administrators, teachers, social workers, mentors, attorneys and UB law students.

The program has served nearly 2,000 students and their families, with the majority of students seeing substantial and lasting gains in both attendance and academic performance.

The success of the program is due largely to the powerful combination of compelling role models, compassionate mentors and tutors, firm discipline and a caring team that surrounds students and their families with consistent, ongoing support.

We have witnessed the miracles that can result from taking an interest in a child's life, listening closely to parents and caregivers, and developing a collaborative solution to the problems that underlie truant behavior.

We look forward to collaborating with Mr. Thornton to ensure that every child in Baltimore City attends school regularly, graduates and becomes a productive member of our community.

Barbara A. Babb, Gloria Danziger, Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, director and senior fellow of the Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts at the University of Baltimore School of Law.

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