White House Announces ED Program To Combat Poor School Attendance With Mentoring.


The Washington Post (2/19, Brown) report the White House announced on Friday “that it plans to tackle the problem of poor school attendance by connecting 1 million at-risk students with mentors over the next five years.” Robert Balfanz of Johns Hopkins University, which is overseeing the initiative in partnership with the US Education Department, said, “This is a solvable problem. We have evidence that we can attack this and figure out how to help kids come to school.” Balfanz added, “By mobilizing all this person power we can make a huge difference.” The program, part of President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, will begin in 10 cities and train mentors to work with students.

The AP (2/19, Holland) reports that officials say students who miss large amounts of school are “at risk of falling behind and dropping out,” an issue which applies to some 7.5 million students nationwide The piece reports that My Brother’s Keeper Task Force Chairman Broderick Johnson said that “pairing mentors with some of those students can stop children from risking their futures.” The program, dubbed the MBK Success Mentors Initiative, “will pair trained adults with children to meet with them three times a week.”

Andrew Ujifusa writes about the program at the Education Week (2/21) “Politics K-12” blog, saying that in addition to the mentoring program, “the Absences Add Up public relations campaign will try to highlight the issue for parents, particularly for those with children in elementary and middle schools.” Ujifusa reports that Education Secretary John King said Friday “that the initiatives will help address underlying issue behind chronic absenteeism, while also making schools safer and more supportive.” He quotes King saying, “We know that chronic absenteeism is really an epidemic in the country.”

US News & World Report (2/19, Camera) calls the initiative the largest such effort on the part of the Administration, and quotes King saying that when such students “are absent they are more likely to be retained in grade, more likely to drop out of high school and more likely to get in trouble.” This piece notes that the PR component of the plan “will be a joint effort between the Education Department, the Ad Council and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, a philanthropic organization based in Flint, Michigan.”

A number of media outlets from the ten cities involved in the rollout also cover this story, including the Philadelphia Inquirer (2/19, Graham, Snyder), the Philadelphia Tribune (2/21), the Seattle Times (2/22), the Providence (RI) Journal (2/19, Borg), the Boston Globe (2/19, Vaznis), NY1-TV New York (2/19), and the Miami Herald (2/21).


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