DETROIT—On Thursday evening, Feb. 28, a fired up Rev. Larry Simmons, leader of the Brightmoor Pastors Alliance, declared to a standing-room only crowd of residents and supporters at the Brightmoor Community Center, “You got to show up to blow up.”
He was referring to the cause behind the meeting: better school attendance in Brightmoor.
“My vision for Brightmoor is that we are saved, prosperous, beautiful and diverse,” added Simmons. “And there is no way you can tell me that we can be prosperous if our children aren’t educated.”
Simmons, along with other community and religious leaders, called for an all-hands-on-deck approach to attendance problems in this northwest Detroit neighborhood well known for both its blight and its unwavering community spirit.
The “Present in Brightmoor: Our School Attendance Movement” campaign announcement, spearheaded by the BPA and supported by Excellent Schools Detroit and Brightmoor Alliance, came on the heels of student count results from last year showing that more than 60 percent of Brightmoor’s 7,000 or so students missed 10 or more days of school.
A study on school attendance (Balfanz & Byrnes, 2012) found that a sixth grader with poor attendance is 75 percent more likely to drop out of school than a student with a good attendance rate. And, just a three percent improvement in attendance makes a difference in student performance in reading, English or math in third through eighth grades.
Further making the case, a Consortium of Chicago School Research study shows that by high school, if students miss five to nine days of school in a semester, their chance of graduating on track is only 63 percent, and that drops to just 41 percent if they miss 10 days or more.
While Present in Brightmoor does not have a specific plan in place, it will first search out successful practices around the country, taking a trip to the School Every Day program in Baltimore; host a March 18 training about community organizing and how to research attendance; conduct interviews to uncover the reasons why Brightmoor kids miss school; and continue to recruit more folks to join the movement.
A sixth grader with poor attendance is 75% more likely to drop out of school than a student with a good attendance rate.
Present in Brightmoor representatives clearly expressed the need to get everyone involved. Various speakers at the kickoff event indicated that knocking on neighbors’ doors who have school-aged kids, making calls to friends and family, or joining school attendance teams may be needed to get more children to school regularly.
“Kids that don’t show up in school always do worse than those who do,” said Mike Collins of Baber Memorial AME. “No matter how smart the children are, if they’re just plain missing too much school, it’s a big problem.”
Commitment Pledge cards were passed out at the event asking community members to commit to the cause, commit to ensuring their own kids or grandkids are at school on time all the time, or commit to participating in other ways.
The campaign goal is to get 100 percent of children in school on time 97 percent of the time, which means missing less than five days per school year. Present in Brightmoor hopes to have 1,000 volunteers on board by September 2013, and 5,000 in place by June of 2014.
Cheering these goals at the kickoff were more than 100 attendees from school principals to students to church members to parents, many donned in lime green, gold and gray t-shirts that read “Present! In Brightmoor” across the front.
Along with leadership from BPA, a group of faith leaders from nearly 50 area churches, educators are also on board for obvious reasons.
“Our attendance is decent, but it could be better,” said Julian Roper, principal of YMCA Detroit Leadership Academy, a K-7 charter school. “The challenges we have with attendance impact what we can accomplish.”
Roper says that the reasons for missing school include transportation, parents keeping students home to care for younger siblings, power outages, lack of clean clothes, or sometimes just mom or dad not getting it together enough to get their kids to school.
Unfortunately, says Roper, at this age, “Kids pay the price.”
Join the Present in Brightmoor campaign by contacting the Brightmoor Pastors Alliance at 313-531-0305.