PHOENIX, AZ (October 10, 2012) – A pilot program to reduce truancy in Maricopa County has produced impressive results for a local elementary school plagued by a high rate of absenteeism. Led by a team of volunteers from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, the “Perfect Attendance September” program encouraged more than half the students at Desert Horizon Elementary in Phoenix to show up for every school day last month, a dramatic turnaround from September 2011 when not a single student had a perfect attendance record for the month.
The Perfect Attendance Month program combines a motivational presentation to students about the downside of truancy with the promise of a cupcake party for those who have perfect attendance for a given month. Additional information is provided to parents to encourage them to ensure that their children attend school during the month and beyond. Based on the dramatic improvement in attendance at Desert Horizon, the County Attorney’s Office plans to expand the program to additional schools throughout Maricopa County.
“We know that chronically absent children are at risk for becoming involved in criminal activity, especially as they become older,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “By encouraging kids to attend school on a regular basis, we think this program will help reduce not only truancy but the more serious future problems we wind up dealing with as criminal prosecutors,” he added.
Echoing Montgomery’s comments, Desert Horizon Head Counselor Cal Thogerson said: “Our school has faced tremendous attendance issues in the past. We are pleased that a small amount of encouragement has produced such grand results. The impact this program has made is incredible.”
Arizona law prohibits children between the ages of six and sixteen years-old from failing to attend school during the hours that school is in session. Students with just one unexcused absence can put not only themselves but their classmates’ progress at risk. Out of a total student population of 940, Desert Horizon Elementary saw 567 attend every school day during September 2012, an increase from zero during the same month a year ago. During the “Perfect Attendance September” program, every classroom had at least some students with perfect attendance.