Newark Public Schools Launch 2013-14 Academic Year with Ambitious Grassroots Attendance Campaign

Attend Today, Achieve Tomorrow to Cut School Absenteeism By Half in the Next Three Years

[Newark, NJ – September 5, 2013] – The Newark Public Schools (NPS) opened the 2013-14 school year with the launch of Attend Today, Achieve Tomorrow, an ambitious campaign to highlight and build solutions around the alarming issue of absenteeism. In conjunction with the campaign‟s rollout, NPS released the first of its kind analysis of absenteeism by school and by ward. The study reveals what amounts to be an epidemic, with the district‟s K-8 students missing over 300,000 academic days last year and with 60 percent of students from the city‟s largest high schools absent more than 20 days during the year.

“What we have done in the past to promote exemplary attendance and timeliness is clearly not enough,” stated Newark Public Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson. “Attend Today, Achieve Tomorrow provides sweeping changes to our attendance expectations by promoting the direct link between attendance and achievement and stressing accountability for students,school staff, and families. Most of all, the campaign will empower each community to build customized initiatives to ensure this issue is addressed. The bad news is that Newark students are missing out on thousands of critical instruction hours. The good news is that the community can and must come together to change that. We are One Newark and together we can tackle this issue.”

“If we are successful in our goal to cut absenteeism by half, we will add significant hours of instruction to our students‟ lives,” stated Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson, Newark Public Schools Board Chair. The Attend Today, Achieve Tomorrow campaign will make sense to our students and parents, because it draws a direct correlation between today‟s attendance and tomorrow‟s successes. Our schools must address the issue of attendance improvement strategically and comprehensively. I commend the district for making attendance improvement as a priority and for creating a campaign to support schools and assess our progress. ”

“We know that attendance is a key lever in a student‟s success and the Attend Today, Achieve Tomorrow campaign prioritizes this fact,” stated Keith Green, President and CEO of the United Way of Essex/West Hudson. “The report released today is sobering, but by bringing various community leaders and organizations together to join this cause, we are finally shining a light on this important community issue.”
Reverend Eric Beckham, Pastor of Clearview Baptist Church stated, “The faith-based community is a proud partner in this important campaign. Our students must achieve and that starts with coming to school every day and on time. The community needs to step up to make this happen and we applaud NPS for bringing us together around a concrete goal.”

“As a grandparent supporting several students who attend public schools in Newark, this campaign is refreshing and informative. The Superintendent has challenged us to “step it up” not only by getting our kids to school on time, but also by starting attendance clubs, setting school goals, and helping out our neighbors. A little goes a long way,” stated Doris Holloway.

Based on the belief that absenteeism can be reduced through targeted strategies that measure, monitor and act, the launch of the Attend Today, Achieve Tomorrow campaign serves as a public rallying cry to cut absenteeism and tardiness in half over the next three years, adding a million hours of instruction. Specifically, the initiative mandates each school principal to work in conjunction with his/her community, the Assistant Superintendent’s support teams and the Office of Family and Community Engagement to build individualized strategic plans of accountability. Each School plan must include a:
  • Calendar of events to track and celebrate progress throughout the year,
  • Component to support teachers and other school staff to reach out to families more regularly and proactively regarding attendance,
  • Public display of the school‟s past attendance data with clear goals – for all families, community members, and visitors to see,
  • Strategy to re-engage and support the families of chronically absent students from the following year,
  • Reward system for students and schools with strong attendance records – and demonstrated improvement, and
  • Commitment to actively engage neighborhood partners, including faith based institutions, community organizations and local leaders.
Today’s Announcement joins a series of initiatives being developed under the Newark Public Schools’ One Newark agenda, a collective set of priorities focused on ensuring every student in Newark has access to an excellent school. The hallmarks of One Newark is highlighted in the “Success” acronym, showcased during its launch last June: System-wide accountability, Universal enrollment, City-wide facilities and technology plans, Codified practices, Equity and access for all students, Shared vision for excellent schools and Systemic conditions of success.