The Mayor’s Interagency Task Force




Report Examines Efforts of New York City’s Interagency Truancy Task Force and Finds Significant Impact – Strongest for Students in Poverty and Temporary Housing


National E-Summit Held Today on NYC Model Draws Participants from 42 States, 152 Cities and Over 400 Registrants Nationwide


Full Report Available at


            Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Chief Policy Advisor John Feinblatt, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Task Force Chair Leslie Cornfeld today announced the results of a study on New York City’s efforts to reduce chronic absenteeism in schools. The independent study, “Meeting the Challenge of Combating Chronic Absenteeism: Impact of the NYC Mayor’s Interagency Task Force on Chronic Absenteeism – And It’s Implications For Other Cities,” by Dr. Robert Belfanz and Dr.Vaughan Brynes of Johns Hopkins School of Education analyzed the work of a first-of-its-kind interagency task force and its impacts on reducing chronic absenteeism in 100 pilot schools with over 60,000 students.  Created by the Mayor in 2010, the Mayor’s Interagency Task Force on Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism & School Engagement has designed, implemented and evaluated a series of comprehensive cross-sector strategies to tackle this problem ranging from new models of school-based mentoring, data tools and public awareness campaigns, to models that better connect schools to local resources.   It is recognized in the study as the “nation’s most comprehensive effort” to combat this problem to drive student achievement.  The Task Force piloted its strategies and policies in 25 elementary, middle and high schools in year one, 50 in year two, and scaled to 100 schools last year, reaching over 60,000 students.

            The study found that the Task Force interventions had a “statistically significant and educationally meaningful impact on chronic absenteeism levels” at their targeted pilot schools – consistently outperforming comparison schools in reducing chronic absenteeism across the board in elementary, middle and high school. Previously chronically absent students with mentors gained approximately 2 weeks (9 days) of school per student, per year which links directly back to improved academic outcomes and dropout prevention.

            Other key findings include that students below the poverty line at Task Force schools were 15% less likely to be chronically absent than those at comparison schools; students in temporary shelters were 31% less likely to be chronically absent than similar students; and high school students who had success mentors were 52% more likely to remain in school the following year which suggests a powerful dropout prevention strategy. Students who become chronically absent see their GPA decline from 72 percent to 67 percent but this study also showed that students who were no longer chronically absent had improved academic achievement – an open question until this study. The findings demonstrate that effective, cost-efficient strategies to reduce chronic absenteeism, increase attendance and improve academic outcomes are achievable in our most high-need communities.

Truancy impacts the safety, health, and educational outcomes of our young people and that’s why three years ago we created a task force to develop a bold, comprehensive set of strategies to help tackle this problem,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The study released today demonstrates the important impact of those strategies on our city’s children, helping them stay in school, off the streets, and realize their full potential.”

Comprehensive strategies to prevent chronic absenteeism were implemented at all of the 100 task force pilot schools. These schools were trained throughout the year and were provided access to a variety tools to combat truancy. Pilot schools had access to new data tools and absenteeism flags; implemented the Success Mentor Corps program; held weekly principal led student success meetings with school leadership; held parent summits at the start of each year, working with parents of chronically absent students to engage them as well as a variety of other strategies and tools.

The study found that the NYC Success Mentor Corps became the largest most comprehensive in-school mentoring effort in the nation within a single city, reaching almost 10,000 chronically absent or at-risk students. Within the mentor corps there are three primary models, which all share core components: (1) External mentors, staffed by non-profit school partners such as AmeriCorps, retired professional or social work students; (2) Internal mentors, staffed by school personnel, such as teachers, coaches or security officers from the students’ school; and (3) Peer mentors, staffed by selected 12th grade students and matched with 9th grade students, a critical transition grade in dropout prevention. The mentor corps works with at-risk students to encourage success, identify the reasons for absenteeism, and help develop strategies to get students on track to graduate, college ready.

            “We now know that chronic absenteeism is neither inevitable, nor irreparable if the right strategies are applied on time” said Chief Policy Advisor John Feinblatt. “With the release of today’s report from Johns Hopkins, we have critical new data showing that our efforts over the past three years are having strong results – positively impacting not only school attendance and achievement, but juvenile crime and safety.”

            “Over the last twelve years, we’ve made extraordinary efforts in conjunction with agencies around the city to reduce absenteeism – and this report validates our strategy. Having kids in the classroom is one reason graduation rates have hit all-time highs and drop-out rates have plummeted,” said Chancellor Walcott. “Attendance is no longer perceived as an administrative function, but as an investment, maximizing instructional time to prepare students for college and careers in the 21st century. With increased learning time, many of these students are succeeding now more than ever. We continue to work collaboratively with our school communities, other government entities, and non-profits on ways to strengthen attendance interventions and protocols.”

“The impacts of the NYC Mayor’s Taskforce to Combat Truancy and Absenteeism demonstrate that we have a powerful untapped tool at our disposal to close achievement gaps, increase graduation rates, improve college and career readiness, and decrease crime and social welfare costs — that is, organizing, and applying ourselves to get our students to school every day without fail,” said Dr. Robert Belfanz, Co-Director of the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University.  “Today’s results will hopefully encourage other cities, school districts and states to follow New York City’s lead.”

More key findings from the report include:

·         Task force schools significantly and consistently outperformed comparison schools in reducing chronic absenteeism across the board in elementary, middle and high school.

  • The greatest impacts were achieved for the two key target groups of the initiative:  (1) high-poverty minority students at task force schools who were 15% less likely to be chronically absent than similar students at comparison schools; (2) students in temporary shelters in task force schools – a major focus of the task force efforts — who were 31% less likely to be chronically absent than similar students at comparison schools.
  • Over three years the task force was able to expand its chronic absenteeism prevention and intervention program to 100 schools enrolling more than 62,815 students (larger than the Boston, DC, or Sacramento school districts) and obtain effective implementation levels in the vast majority of them — demonstrating that these are potentially scalable strategies for other cities.  
  • Success Mentors, and their supporting infrastructure, were the most effective component of the task force’s effort across all school types.  Previously chronically absent students with mentors, gained almost two additional weeks (9 days) of school per student, per year – a threshold linked with positive impacts on academic outcomes and dropout prevention.
  • In the 25% of schools with the greatest impacts, chronically absent students supported by Success Mentors gained, on average, more than a month of school.
  • Previously chronically absent students in 2012-13 with Success Mentors gained 51,562 additional days of school than previously chronically absent students without mentors at comparison schools; and 92,277 additional days than comparison school students without mentors during the three-year initiative.
  • Previously chronically absent high school students with Success Mentors were 52% more likely to remain in school the following year than equivalent comparison students who did not receive mentors – suggesting a useful dropout prevention strategy.
  • Students who become chronically absent see declines in average GPA (from 72% to 67%, dropping from a C to a D) while those who exit chronic absenteeism see improvement (from 72% to 73%), a statistically significant difference given that these are cumulative GPAs which are harder to move. GPAs of students who continue to not be chronically absent, continue to improve in the second year after exiting chronic absenteeism.
  • For 86% of suspended students in the sample schools, chronic absenteeism was the first off-track indicator to develop, before students exhibit disciplinary issues — suggesting new “early warning” opportunities for preventing disciplinary and “off-track” behavior 

“These findings reflect the impact that targeted, data-driven interagency collaboration can have in our schools and cities,” said Truancy Task Force Chair Leslie Cornfeld. “No school district can solve the challenges facing its students alone.  What the Mayor’s efforts demonstrate is that high impact, cost efficient strategies exist to help more students attend and succeed in school.”

“I’ve been a teacher for many years, and I was shocked at the impact I could have on my students, and even their families, as their success mentor,” said Dominique Broccoli, of High School of Computers and Technology, a task force pilot school in the Bronx. “I had kids who totally turned themselves around academically just by having someone in their corner for them; students who were on track to drop out who are now on track for high achievement.”

            “My mentor turned my life around.  And I mean that,” said Corey Allow a high school senior in the Bronx.   “I had some really serious personal issues with my family, and I basically missed 2 or more months of school in 9th and 10th grades, each year.  Then I got assigned a mentor who convinced me to turn things around.  I went from failing out, and not coming, to being on track to graduate this June.  None of this would have happened without her.”

“The NYC Success Mentor Corp is a groundbreaking example of what strategic, metric-driven mentoring can accomplish for students in underserved communities across the country,” said David Shapiro, President and CEO of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. “NYC has demonstrated that high-impact, cost efficient, and scalable mentoring models can be successfully implemented in our nation’s schools.  I applaud Mayor Bloomberg and the Success Mentor Corp. for being an inspiration, and model, for cities nationwide.”

“With a problem this complex, it is critical to create partnerships across city-agencies, bringing resources and solutions to bear to help students succeed. The Mayor’s efforts via this Task Force demonstrate how to make this happen,” said Peter Goldwasser, Chief Program Officer for the Mayor’s Task Force on Truancy.

Chronic absenteeism is a national problem, handicapping education efforts across the country. It is estimated that between 5 million and 6.5 million students nationwide are not attending school regularly. In New York City approximately 200,000 students1 out of 5were chronically absent last year, missing a month or more of school. The city also found that 79% of children in the juvenile justice system had records of chronic absenteeism just prior to their arrests, and in almost half of these cases, absenteeism was severe, with children missing 38 or more days of school. Additional analysis showed that students with good attendance were more than twice as likely to score ‘proficient’ on academic achievement tests as students who missed a month or more of school.

The Mayor’s Interagency Task Force

Over the past three years the task force launched a multi-pronged, cross-sector effort to address the problem of chronic absenteeism as a strategy to improve student achievement; it is the largest, most comprehensive effort in the nation. A core initiative, the NYC Success Mentor Corps, reached over 9,000 at-risk students last year, resulting in over 51,000 additional days of school attended for previously chronically absent students. The model is being disseminated citywide this year, and is being instituted in other cities as well. Other task force initiatives include launching a $5 million public awareness campaign “It’s 9 am Do You Know Where Your Children Are?” underwritten by the Ad Council and AT&T along with the creation of the city’s first electronic Truancy Help Center, connecting families to needed resources and guidance through 311 or electronically; WakeUp! NYC, a celebrity wake up call program reaching over 30,000 students last year; the city’s first Engagement Center, an interagency partnership with law enforcement, DOE and community partners to prevent truancy.

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Contact:          Marc La Vorgna / Jake Goldman        (212) 788-2958

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