schools.jpgThe number of truant students in San Francisco’s public schools dropped for the fifth year in a row, District Attorney George Gascon and school district officials announced Thursday.

The number of habitually or chronically absent students in San Francisco Unified School District schools dropped 12 percent in the past year and 38 percent since the 2007-08 school year, according to district officials.

Gascon was on hand with district Superintendent Richard Carranza and Board of Education President Norman Yee at Burton High School Thursday to tout the latest numbers and announce a second year of an anti-truancy program at the school funded by the district attorney’s office.

The program targets around 20 at-risk incoming ninth-graders who have been identified by the district’s data as potential truants and provides individual case management at the campus by the YMCA’s Truancy Assessment and Resource Center.

“Without intervention, today’s truants are tomorrow’s dropouts,” Gascon said.

He noted that dropouts are at risk of becoming victims of violent crime, citing a report that found that 94 percent of San Francisco’s homicide victims under the age of 25 were high school dropouts.

He said by working with the counselors at Burton, the students there “are embedded in the school’s culture in a way that they’ll want to stay.”

Carranza said increased enforcement by the school district has also helped lower the truancy numbers.

“Somebody’s going to know if you aren’t in school,” he said.

Carranza said the district also has to continue adapting its curriculum as new technologies and job fields come along.

“Students vote with their feet,” he said. “So as educators it’s our job to make sure that the environments we create are engaging environments that are connected to 21st-century skill sets.”

Victor Sosa, a junior at Burton, is one of the students who has worked with the counselors.

“I didn’t like to go to school, it wasn’t for me,” he said.

He said though that the counselors have made him realize the importance of an education.

“Basically I need school to be something in life,” he said. “I didn’t want to be on the streets with no money.”

Families seeking attendance-related assistance for their students are encouraged to call the SFUSD’s student support services department at (415) 695-5543.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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