LSU School of Social Work’s Truancy Assessment and Service Center Program Sites to Visit State Capitol for Legislative Day on May 14
BATON ROUGE – Recognizing the importance of early intervention for at-risk children, the LSU School of Social Work’s Office of Social Service Research and Development, or OSSRD, designed and administers the Truancy Assessment and Service Center program, or TASC. This intervention program helps to combat issues related to truancy in kindergarten through fifth grade students.
The TASC program is the only research-based, rigidly monitored truancy program in the state of Louisiana and is nationally recognized. It focuses on early identification, rapid assessment and intensive intervention tailored for K-5 public school children who have multiple unexcused absences that put them at risk for school failure.
TASC was created in 1999 through the Louisiana Children’s Code to reduce truancy – a key indicator that can lead to juvenile delinquency and dropping out of school – in high-risk elementary school children. Each TASC site forms a local advisory board and works in collaboration with families, schools, district attorneys, courts, law enforcement agencies and social service organizations to mobilize resources that address critical contributing issues in the life of a truant child. Fostered by an extensive case management database, OSSRD monitors and evaluates each TASC site to improve long-term outcomes for Louisiana’s public school children. There are currently 14 operating TASC sites that serve 21 Louisiana parishes: Acadia, Beauregard, Bossier, Caddo, Calcasieu, East Baton Rouge, Iberia, Jackson, Jefferson, Jefferson Davis, Lincoln, Livingston, St. Helena, St. Martin, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Union, Vermilion, Washington and Webster.
To promote awareness of its efforts and showcase its successes, TASC representatives from sites across the state sponsor an annual event at the Louisiana State Capitol. This year, TASC Day at the Capitol will be held on Monday, May 14, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. The group will present display boards and will be available to discuss program highlights and success stories with guests.
“We are very excited to have our TASC partners speak about the importance of truancy prevention, especially during a time when education reform is a key issue at the legislature,” said Vi Martin, chair of the Louisiana Association of TASCs and director of resource development for the Calcasieu Office of Juvenile Justice Services. “We know that these are hard economic times and want to let our legislators know that TASC is a good investment in our children and in the future of our state.”
Truancy has a particularly devastating and lasting effect on children, with strong correlations known to exist between early truancy, continued academic and behavioral problems, eventual school dropout and development of delinquent behavior. TASC is a program that identifies truant children and works with schools, families and local agencies to prevent truant behavior, keep kids in school and on task to graduate.
Data calculated from 2001-2002 through the 2010-2011 school year shows that the TASC program has received more than 100,000 student referrals and more than 75,000 children and their families have been served by TASC. Over this same time period, TASC research estimates that TASC children attended 25,000 more days of school after intervention than if they had not been in the TASC program.
“Keeping children in school must become a priority if Louisiana is ever going to reduce incarceration rates, increase educational levels and stop the cycle of poverty that is plaguing our state,” said Cecile Guin, LSU OSSRD director. “The average amount Louisiana spends per child in secure facilities is more than $115,000 annually, whereas the average cost per child for TASC treatment is less than $450 per year. The TASC model works in keeping kids in school and research shows that 86 percent of TASC kids move to the next grade level following TASC intervention.”
A cost-benefit analysis compiled by both the LSU E. J. Ourso College of Business and the Southeastern Louisiana University Department of Finance concluded that dropping out of school is so costly to Louisiana that TASC would need to prevent just 12 to 13 dropouts annually – less than one percent of the children it serves – to justify its cost.
Studies have shown that a Louisiana dropout will likely earn about $356,031 less, over a lifetime, than a high school graduate. This is a personal loss to the dropout and a social loss of productivity to the state. Studies also show that a high school dropout that turns to a life of crime costs the state about $1.7 million. Not all dropouts commit crimes, but studies have found that dropping out of school increases the likelihood of criminal activity.
Hillar Moore III, district attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish, is a big supporter of the TASC program.
“Every time I speak about truancy, people ask me, ‘Why? That’s not the job of the district attorney.’ They are right,” Moore said. “The simple fact is, however, that truancy leads to a lack of education, which leads to delinquency, which leads to criminal behavior and a life of crime. Truancy is an issue for all of us and the TASC program is a great model that is statistically driven, evidence based and results oriented.”
For more information on the Truancy Assessment and Service Center program, contact Renee’ Boutte Myer in the LSU School of Social Work at 225-578-5602 or visit www.socialwork.lsu.edu/html/researchinitiatives/tasc.html.
For more information on TASC Day at the Capitol, contact Martin at 337-721-3900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Effective July 1, LSU's new College of Human Sciences and Education will consist of six schools: the School of Education, the School of Human Resource Education and Workforce Development, the School of Kinesiology, the School of Library and Information Science, the School of Social Work, and the University Laboratory School.