Ben Wolfgang, Washington Times, August 28, 2011
To combat truancy, many school districts are offering iPods, laptops and even cars in exchange for perfect attendance.
The Camden, N.J., school system will pay some students $100 if they sign a pledge promising not to skip school and attend workshops on conflict resolution and other topics. The program is funded through a state grant, and the money must be spent by Sept. 30.
California’s Santa Ana Unified School District partners with a local auto dealership and holds a car raffle at the end of every academic term. Students who made it to every class for the 180-day school year are eligible to win.
Other raffle prizes in Santa Ana include iPods, movie tickets and other items, Ms. Burrell said. Similar programs have been implemented in districts in Wyoming, Arizona, Michigan and elsewhere.
Education specialists see value in such efforts. Skipping school is often the precursor to dropping out, and schools are wise to try and reach students before they give up on the system entirely, said James Appleton, executive director of the National Dropout Prevention Center, a Clemson University initiative.
Thirteen percent of D.C. high school students, for example, missed at least 15 days of school without a valid excuse during the first half of the 2010-2011 school year, according to a recent report from D.C. Council’s Special Committee on School Safety and Truancy.
While they agree truancy is a serious problem that must be addressed, some officials are skeptical of giving students cash, cars or iPods as incentives to come to class.
Camden, N.J., School Board member Sean Brown told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he opposes the grant program. Former board member Jose Delgado told the paper that the move is “outrageous” and sends the wrong message to students. Many critics believe that daily attendance should be an expectation, and districts should not have to resort to what some consider bribery to get children to class