Council Committees to Hold Joint Work Session on Truancy in Montgomery County
Although Rate of Habitual Truancy in MCPS Compares Favorably to Other Systems,
County Seeks Further Reductions
ROCKVILLE, Md., March 17, 2010—The Montgomery County Council’s Education Committee and Public Safety Committee will hold a joint work session Thursday, March 18, on the Office of Legislative Oversight’s (OLO) report “Truancy in Montgomery County.” The study of truancy in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) shows that 984 students (less than one percent) of students were habitually truant in 2009, which compares well to most school systems in Maryland. But the County still would like those numbers to decrease.
The Education Committee, which is chaired by Council Vice President Valerie Ervin, includes Councilmembers Mike Knapp and Phil Andrews, and the Public Safety Committee, which is chaired by Councilmember Andrews, includes Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Marc Elrich, will meet at 9:30 am in the Seventh Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. The meeting will be televised live by County Cable Montgomery (CCM—Cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon) and also will be available via streaming through the County Web site at www.montgomerycountymd.gov.
Maryland defines truancy as an unexcused or “unlawful” absence. A student is considered “habitually truant” if their unexcused absences are equal to or exceed 20 percent of the semester (18 days) or school year (36 days). Habitual truancy rates declined by five percent between 2006 and 2009; and less than one percent of students in 2009 were habitually truant in MCPS.
“I requested this report from the Office of Legislative Oversight because truancy is an issue confronting communities throughout the nation and research links truancy to higher drop-out rates, substance abuse, and juvenile delinquency,” said Council Vice President Valerie Ervin, who chairs the Education Committee. “We must work with our partners at the school system to get to the root causes of truancy and assist students and their families with issues that may impact attendance.”
The report cites research that says truancy has been correlated to dropping out of school, substance abuse, juvenile delinquency and other risky behaviors which can be costly in both the short-term and long-term.
The report provides information on habitual truancy that was compiled by several sources. Montgomery County’s rate of habitual truancy in 2009 was 0.7 percent. The OLO report compares those figures to five other Maryland school systems, including Howard County (0.3 percent), Frederick (0.6 percent), Anne Arundel (0.8 percent), Baltimore County (1.9 percent) and Prince George’s (9.6 percent).
The Montgomery high schools with the lowest rate of habitual truancy in 2009 were Damascus (0.07 percent), Churchill (0.09 percent) and Poolesville (0.10 percent). The high schools with the highest rates were Wheaton (3.86 percent), Northwood (3.85 percent) and Montgomery Blair (3.24 percent). The rate for all MCPS schools (elementary, middle, and high schools) was 0.71 percent.
The OLO report says that the current methods used by the County to reduce truancy are partially aligned with the best practices to reduce truancy. The Council committees, along with representatives from MCPS, the Executive Branch and the State’s Attorney’s Office, will discuss the attendance threshold for responding to individual students’ truancy; opportunities for increased collaboration among County agencies; and the value of formally evaluating County efforts to reduce truancy.
The OLO report on Truancy in Montgomery County can be found on-line at http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/council/olo/reports/pdf/2010-7_truancy.pdf