Sue Fothergill recently posted a new ‘Audacious Idea’ on how to improve the massive attendance problem in Baltimore’s schools: time and structured ways to develop new friendships.
She begins by describing the magnitude of the problem. “For the past three school years, over 40% percent of Baltimore City public high school students have missed a month or more of school making them chronically absent and last school year 49% of 9th graders missed at least a month of school.” I agree that this is one of the foremost issues we face in the city school system; I referred to my experience with absences here.
But I am skeptical about her plan to fix this issue:
Friendships matter—fostering them to improve school attendance is my audacious idea.
What if every high school had a comprehensive program to facilitate friendships amongst their incoming 9th graders? City Schools should consider creating opportunities for new high school students to become friends, during summer transitional programs, through increased after-school opportunities, and by providing socialization time during the school day while also ensuring that students have the opportunity to talk and learn about positive relationships.
Perhaps it is just my lack of knowledge about how to provide this structured socialization time, as opposed to unstructured socialization during lunchtime or while hanging in the halls. I don’t know how to successfully create these friendship opportunities (other than via after-school clubs and field trips, both of which I have been involved in), so I doubt that this plan will work. Can someone convince me otherwise? What do you do to build new friendships between students at your school? Maybe I should take another read through the Virtual Conference on Soft Skills.