Ascension Public Schools tackle truancy

Ascension truancy

ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Challenge 5 is a new initiative by Ascension Parish Public Schools. The goal is to work with parents to show the important of education while making sure kids come to school every day.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?” asked a pre-K teacher at Ascension Head Start to a roomful of students.

Setting a strong foundation is key when attempting any dream.

“I don’t want to be a doctor, a want to be a police officer,” said a student during class.

For many kids, molding that dream starts where they spend the majority of their day: school.

“Every day matters and every day, our children are adding on to the learning that they are coming with, building the oral language that they need to have to be successful in later years,” said Martha Babin, principal of Ascension Head Start in Donaldsonville.

To make sure kids have everything they need to further their education, they need to attend school on a regular basis. Students missing over 18 days are considered truant.

“Studies show that 10 percent of a school year missed will cause a child to be failing by the 3rd grade if you’re in kindergarten, possibly failing by the 6th grade and actually dropping out by the 9th grade,” explained Cleveland Washington, truancy coordinator with Ascension Parish Public Schools.

Ascension Parish Public Schools has issued a truancy challenge to students and it’s quite simple. It’s called Challenge 5. If students have fewer than five absences or perfect attendance, they will be entered into a contest to win a gift card from local community partners like Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan, Sonic in Donaldsonville, Graugnard, Foti Financial Services, and Edward Jones Donaldsonville Branch. District leaders are trying to stay ahead of the curve and boost their attendance ratings with a special focus on the little ones.

“You can miss a lot of instructional time, even with excused days, and that’s what we’re looking at: chronic absenteeism,” Washington said. “Excused days and suspensions also count within those days.”

Right now, East Baton Rouge Parish Public School System, Zachary Public Schools, and Ascension Parish Public Schools are even when it comes to the average attendance for last year.

For the 2017-18 school year, Ascension achieved a 95 percent attendance rate. According to the district’s Facebook post, that’s slightly higher than the state average of 94 percent.

So far in 2018, only 13 students of nearly 23,000 have had high absence rates in Ascension. School leaders say every minute of the day counts.

“Missing even the first 15 minutes of a school day is a loss of socialization opportunities, especially with our age group,” Babin said, stating that younger students require constant socialization, so being present for the entirety of the school day is crucial.

“If we can get reading levels on task by the 3rd grade, we know that child is on the path to succeeding eventually in life. He’s going to say least make it to college,” Washington said.

District leaders say in attacking truancy, they’re making sure students are reading on the appropriate grade level and advancing when necessary.

A truancy committee was also formed. Washington says when a student missed more than three to five days, parents are contacted, and an attendance plan is created before the court is initiated.

Babin says partnering with parents helps set good attendance. “Habits and strategies for families to have on time attendance, not only being here at school, but being at school punctual, on time, ready to learn, to maximize all of the learning time that’s available to our children," she said.

The parish Facebook post also says: “Inspirational quotes are sent out to school counselors and principals to be shared with students every Wednesday.”

Prize drawings will take place on October 24 and 31.

If you’d like to partner with the district, contact Cleveland Washington at 225-391-7195 or

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