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Story Behind the Numbers: A Qualitative Evaluation of the Houston, TX Truancy Reduction Demonstration Program

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2007
24 pages
This product of the evaluation of the Truancy Reduction Demonstration Program in the Gulfton community in Houston, TX, first reviews the two main components of the truancy program, followed by discussions of the themes that emerged from interviews and focus groups that were part of the evaluation.
One component of the program involves a case management model in which students and families are assigned a case manager, who attempts to identify and address unmet needs of the student and his/her family that may be impacting school attendance. The program's second component, called "Knock and Talk," involves police officers visiting the homes of students with identified truancy patterns. Officers may issue tickets to the students and/or parents indicating that the student is in violation of State law that makes school attendance mandatory. In evaluating the effectiveness of these two methods for addressing truancy, focus groups were held with three groups of people: high school and program staff (including police officers), the students receiving the services, and parents of those students. A review of the focus group discussions addresses the following themes: truancy causes; school engagement; community resources for families; the effectiveness of case management; the effectiveness of police "knock and talk;" program challenges and barriers; program successes; and recommendations for program improvement. Although there was general appreciation for the case-manager component of the program among students, their families, and staff, the police "knock and talk" component was more controversial. There was a notable disconnect between the way the officers portrayed their attitude and role and the perceptions of the parents and students, many of whom are immigrants raised in an Hispanic culture.

Date Published: January 1, 2007