Science Hill community summit addresses workforce development and chronic absenteeism


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – A Tri-Cities school is bringing people together to help decrease chronic absenteeism.

Science Hill High School hosted a summit with community leaders to discuss a plan to build a stronger workforce and address issues with absenteeism.

Chronic absenteeism is classified as missing 10 percent or more of the days the student is enrolled.

The Tennessee Department of Education recently added chronic absenteeism to the state’s accountability system.

“Our biggest worry, and our biggest concern is that students, by not coming to school, are shutting doors,” said Science Hill Assistant Principal Josh Carter.

Carter said missed days of class equal lost opportunities.

“One of the things we want to do at Science Hill is not only empower each individual kid,” he said, “but we want to have a larger impact on Johnson City.”

According to Science Hill, nearly 20 percent of Science Hill Students were chronically absent last year, up from 16 percent the previous year.

In addition, average ACT scores were more than 3 points lower during each of those years by students who missed more than 10 percent of school.

The average number of school days missed by those who made less than 19 on the ACT also increased by more than 3 during the course of those two years.

Michael Marion is the executive director for Rise Up, a group that helps kids be successful in relationships and prepare for the future.

“As far as I can remember, this is the first time that we as a group of educators, influencers, community leaders and so forth has recognized a very specific problem that in the long run creates a lot of problems for our community, for our society,” he said, “but is addressable if we are aware of it and work together.”

Those problems can then flow into the community’s workforce.

“We’re hearing from a lot of local employers that those soft skills, young people aren’t learning to the degree that they would like them to learn,” said Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock.

Brock said better equipping the community’s workforce helps with attracting new business and industry to the area.

“The available work force, the quality of the work force, is a very, very important factor,” she said. “If they don’t feel like they can get the workforce here, they’re not going to come.”

During the 2017-2018 school year, Johnson City’s chronic absenteeism rate was 10 percent. Washington County’s was 13 percent.

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