Boston Public Schools Team Up with Boston Red Sox and David Ortiz to Curb Chronic Absenteeism

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Boston – Boston Public Schools (BPS) Superintendent Tommy Chang announced that high and middle school students across Boston will have an opportunity to receive morning wake-up calls, featuring the voice of “Big Papi,” David Ortiz, of the Boston Red Sox. The service will be available starting in September 2016 to help students who have been chronically absent from or late to school.

“Chronic absenteeism is a national problem. Frequent absences from school can be devastating to a child’s education,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. earlier this month in announcing new, national chronic absenteeism data as part of the 2013-14 Civil Rights Data Collection. “Missing school leads to low academic achievement and triggers drop outs. Millions of young people are missing opportunities in post-secondary education, good careers, and a chance to experience the American dream.”

mayor-SchoolsBPS students will be able to receive a morning wake-up call from David Ortiz during the final weeks of his last season. This announcement comes months after the White House issued a public campaign to empower parents with information about chronic absenteeism.

“We are pleased to be working with the Boston Public Schools in this small way to help tackle the important issue of chronic absenteeism,” said Red Sox President Sam Kennedy. “We hope David’s morning wake-up call helps inspire, motivate, and encourage children throughout Boston to attend school, and serve as a reminder of the importance of education to our Boston-area children.”

Chronic absenteeism, or missing at least ten percent of school days in the school year, excused or unexcused, is a cause of low achievement and a powerful predictor of which students may eventually drop out of school. According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 6 million students-or 13 percent of all students-missed at least 15 days of school in the 2013-14 school year, putting them at risk of falling behind and getting off the path to graduate from high school.

“We are excited to introduce this new and innovative tool to students in the Boston Public School system,” said Mayor Walsh. “It is our hope that by offering fun, outside-the-box tools such as this, we will reduce chronic absenteeism in our schools in a way that is enjoyable for our students. I want to thank Big Papi and the Boston Red Sox for supporting this effort – we are fortunate to have a community of partners that are passionate and committed to seeing our students succeed.”

In February, BPS was among 10 large school districts selected by the White House to participate in the MBK Success Mentors Initiative, the nation’s first-ever effort to scale an evidence-based mentor model to reach and support the highest risk students-using existing resources already linked to schools, and the metric of chronic absenteeism to drive school and life success. Chronic absenteeism is often the first flag for a school that a student may be at risk of dropping out of school. The MBK Success Mentors Initiative is now underway in four schools: Jeremiah E. Burke High School, English High School, Higginson-Lewis K-8 School, and Perkins Elementary School.

“The Committee remains focused on supporting Boston Public Schools in its efforts to decrease chronic absenteeism among our students,” said Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael O’Neill. “I commend the White House on paving the way for many public school districts across the country to take this work and make it a top priority.”

As part of this effort, the Boston Public Schools’ Office of Opportunity and Achievement Gaps, led by Dr. Colin Rose, has partnered with the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper’s Success Mentors Initiative. Chronically absent students are now being matched with mentors. Both the Jeremiah Burke and English High Schools connected 9th grade students who were on pace to be chronically absent for the year (missing 10% of days) to mentors. Similar models are being applied at elementary and kindergarten grade levels.

“We are dedicated and committed to doing anything we can to provide our students with the necessary supports to keep them on track,” said Superintendent Chang. “We will continue to develop fun, innovative solutions to address challenges facing our children.”

In the past year, approximately 24 students at Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers received morning wake-up calls. When they found waking up in the morning to be a challenging task, they worked with their teachers and faculty to request the service from BPS headquarters.

“I am tardy to school almost every day, and EMK recommended a wake-up call, so I decided to try it,” said Xaquiel Martinez, a 9th grade student at the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers. “Since then I put my phone next to my pillow and the phone wakes me up at about 6:00 a.m. every morning which helps me to leave home around 7:00 a.m. and arrive at school at about 7:45 a.m., just in time for breakfast!!  I hope to use it next school year so I can continue to improve my tardiness.”

The service is carried out by a service called School Messenger, a technology-based broadcast network that allows BPS to send large volumes of messages reliably across multiple channels, which includes phone calls, emails, text messages, and more.

Families will be able to opt-in their high and middle school students to the service. Automated calls will be made available in several languages.

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