How do you change a culture of chronic absenteeism in Baltimore City? It's like eating an elephant; you have to take one bite at a time ("City principals face discipline for student absenteeism," March 16).

After coordinating an attendance initiative in Baltimore City and working to help urban school districts improve school attendance, there are a few things I know for sure. It takes collaboration to educate parents, students and school staff on attendance policy and procedure. It takes resources to remove barriers to attendance and it takes consistency to hold all parties accountable in making sure children attend school on a daily basis.

In other words, this is more than a parent or a principal issue. This is a community issue.

I have found that schools with great attendance rates have a few things in common. School leadership and teachers have built solid relationships based on trust with parents and students, community partners are willing to volunteer to provide needed resources and incentives for families, and families have made the connection between good attendance and academic achievement.

Chronic absenteeism is a heavy lift not only in Baltimore but in cities across the country. It's going to take a concerted effort on behalf of everyone to make sure students attend school on a regular basis. When it comes down to it we are all in this together.

Heidi Stevens, Towson

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