At-Risk Behaviors and the School Finance Act
STUDY OF THE FINANCING OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS
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02:44 PM -- At-Risk Behaviors and the School Finance Act
Ken Seeley, representing the Partnership for Families and Children, discussed methods for dropout prevention. He specifically discussed the initiative Colorado Graduates, which is implemented in conjunction with the Donnell-Kay Foundation and the Colorado Children's Campaign. He noted that there needs to be a better way of penalizing at-risk students besides expulsion, noting that the partnership has worked to encourage suspension and other dropout prevention programs. He explained that The National Center for School Engagement, founded in 2003, is focused on attendance, attachment, and achievement. He noted early warning signs, such as unexcused absences in young students, appear as a result of coming from chaotic situations where getting to school is not high on the priority list. He noted past efforts to fund schools on attendance, not pupil count. He shared other early warning signs of potential future dropout, specifically: students with at least one F and behavior problems manifested by suspensions and attendance issues.
Mr. Seeley discussed the importance of incentives for students to stay in school, instead of losing them permanently when they drop out in the ninth grade. Senator Schwartz shared her discussion with a superintendent who wondered if it would be possible to tie TANF payments to required school attendance. Mr. Seeley noted that Florida is a state that ties those two things together but he cautioned about the punitive nature of the method. However, he noted that, as a threat, it improved attendance in Florida. Senator Johnston also commented on TANF and attendance. Mr. Seeley responded to Senator Johnston's comments, sharing past attempts to implement average daily attendance. Senator Johnston asked about more severe punishments and their effectiveness and enforcement. Mr. Seeley noted that the Jacksonville program would arrest parents of elementary school students. He explained that getting children to schools requires incentives and punishments. He indicated that Pueblo, Colorado, is a good model of combatting truancy.
Representative Massey expressed concern about punitive actions against parents and that the incentive programs, in his belief, are preferable to punitive programs for encouraging school attendance.
Steve Dobo, representing Colorado Youth for a Change, shared his experience working with dropouts in Denver. Mr. Dobo explained he started with 85 students and now works to identify thousands of children at risk of dropping out or who had dropped out. He shared some of the partnerships he created to get students interested in returning to school. He noted the importance of having different programs to target the varying age groups. He noted his work with the Colorado Children's Campaign and the Partnership for Families and Children. He discussed the October count and the cycle of behavior it creates in school personnel. He noted that there is no incentive for schools to serve at-risk students after the October count. He provided anecdotal evidence of different behavior before and after the October count. He also discussed the manner in which average daily membership (ADM) and average daily attendance (ADA) are better to incent schools to keep children enrolled. He expressed his belief that two counts would simply create a more complicated system for schools to game and recommended that weighted school funding might be helpful in combination with using ADA.
Senator Romer discussed the incentive to bump up numbers for the October count and the fact that schools expect some sort of mobility. Committee discussion ensued about the October count date and migrant children. Representative Middleton noted there is a federal program that assists with migrant children. Senator Johnston asked about incentivizing school districts for schools to be more expensive as the grade level increases. Mr. Seeley explained the infinite campus program. Senator Schwartz asked about four-day school weeks.
Mr. Seeley noted that he is working on a rural dropout study that will be published next month. Senator Romer discussed the I Have a Dream Program and that there are lessons in it for school districts, even though it is not completely replicable in the same way. Representative Middleton noted that the Colorado dropout model is known as a national model.