There are a wide variety of programs that address truancy and absenteeism across the state of Nebraska. This report is the first opportunity that we have had to quantify whether or not truancy interventions effectively encourage youth to improve school attendance. In the beginning of this report, we present three example program models that differ in the approach and interventions for addressing absenteeism. In the second part of this report, we present data on the youth served and the effectiveness of the truancy interventions across Nebraska. The Community-based Juvenile Services Aid Program fund specifically outlines funding particular activities, including truancy prevention and intervention programs, and setting state policy. The philosophy of the fund is that youth who are having problems attending school regularly are best served in our communities, not through the court system. To measure effectiveness, data was collected using a pre-and-post design. That is, programs entered youth absences prior to enrolling in the truancy program and then after the youth enrolled. The Juvenile Justice Institute (JJI) then calculated the change in attendance for these two time periods. In FY 2015/2016, a total of twenty-nine programs addressing absenteeism were funded through Community-based Aid. Approximately 1,237 youth participated in these programs and remained out of the juvenile justice system, for at least a short period of time. Programs and schools worked diligently to gather the data required to calculate whether youth improved attendance. Overall, 21 programs were able to input sufficient data. Of those, 57% (12 of the 21 programs) showed a statistically significant (p <.05) improvement in absenteeism, and an additional seven showed measurable improvement in attendance while they were working with the youth. Furthermore, with the exception of absences for religious reasons—all absence types improved after a youth enrolled in a program, whether the youth was ill, truant, excused, or parent acknowledged. We then examined whether age, gender, race or other factors impacted change in attendance. Gender was the only youth demographic that affected attendance improvement. Although both males and females had improved attendance overall, females demonstrated a greater reduction in absences than males. Although there were some challenges in this first year in gathering data for various reasons (e.g., not having access to data, not knowing what needed to be entered), programs have expressed that data collection will improve in the upcoming years as they learn the system. Although this initial report represents only two points in time, we hope to eventually capture youth attendance after they complete the program, in order to determine long-term effectiveness. We also plan to measure program impact on other long-term goals including graduation and future delinquency. JJI will continue to improve JCMS to capture informative data including measuring specific reasons for absences and specific interventions.
Kotlaja, Marijana; Wylie, Lindsey; Hobbs, Anne M.; and Juvenile Justice Institute, University of Nebraska at Omaha, "Nebraska Truancy and Absenteeism Programs 2015 to 2016" (2017). Reports. 21.
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