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Washington State University Aims To Expand Use Of A Tool To Help Reduce School Truancy

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Washington state has a big problem with kids not coming to school with one of the worst rates of chronic absenteeism in the nation, according to a report by the group Attendance Works.

Washington State University hopes to get more schools in the state to use an online assessment tool to figure out the reasons why kids aren’t attending.

The assessment tool is called the WARNS program, which stands for Washington Assessment of the Risks and Needs of Students. It’s an online questionnaire that kids who have unexcused absences fill out.

The aim is to figure out what’s going on with the student. Does he or she have a substance abuse problem? Is there conflict at home?

“What we’re trying to do is provide an opportunity for communication between a youth and school counselors,” said Paul Strand, a psychology professor at Washington State University. “Sometimes that’s easier to do by having kids fill out a form rather than talk because sometimes they can be kind of quiet or shy.”

The WARNS tool was originally developed by the Washington State Center for Court Research almost a decade ago. Strand and others from WSU have been researching its effectiveness.

Now the university is taking over hosting the system, which is used by about 80 schools across the state as well as a school district in Georgia. The university said schools in California, Ohio and Connecticut have also expressed interest in using the tool.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.
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