Technology Helps Dallas ISD Track Truants

The number of “contributing to truancy” cases filed by the Dallas Independent School District has increased nearly 10-fold since 2005, thanks to tracking technology.

According to information from the Texas Education Agency, the number of such cases has risen from 79 in 2005 to 750 in 2008. The number of student truancy incidents in the district rose to 7,920 in the last school year, up from 5,491, according to the TEA.

DISD officials say the spike in cases against parents is partially driven by better technology. The district created a centralized computer system about three years ago that tracks truancies. The system helps the district alert parents about absences via phone calls and mail, so they can be held more accountable.

The computerized system checks for absence patterns and automatically generates truancy warning letters and court notices. Before, campuses had to notify parents. “We ensure that the parents are being notified that their child is missing school,” said Martha Hawkins, DISD’s supervisor of attendance improvement and truancy reduction.
Truancy enforcement also is a priority in Fort Worth. The school district for years has logged higher numbers of parent truancy cases than other large Texas districts, including Dallas. Last year, Fort Worth ISD had 1,059 parent cases, with 433 involving fines.