City Desk

D.C. Buys “Don’t Skip School” Ad Campaign

Today Mayor Vince Gray will be introducing a new anti-truancy ad campaign alongside Deputy Mayor for Education De'Shawn Wright.

The District has long had an issue with truancy, Wright told me yesterday. "We think part of the issue is that parents and kids don’t understand the linkage between a day’s absence and how much learning is lost," he says. The campaign—which included a back to school campaign in the fall—will cost between $500,000 and $700,000 "spread across several agencies."

There will be radio ads targeting parents on stations like Majic 102.3 and Praise 104.1, and banner ads on buses and bus shelters for teenagers (one slogan:"The more you learn, the more you earn"). The greatest challenge, Wright says, is reaching ninth graders, a group whose school attendance tends to predict future success.

But as we noted a couple of days ago, there are predictors that are helping researchers find potential dropouts as early as the third grade. An ad campaign is certainly a well-meaning effort, but it's hard to believe that ninth graders will all of a sudden be moved to stop cutting class because an ad says they should. I asked Wright whether there would be metrics for measuring the success of the campaign; half a million bucks is a lot of money, after all.

He says that while the message is intended to help create a "schoolgoing culture" citywide, they'll be targeting three truancy-heavy high schools in particular: Cardozo, Ballou, and Anacostia. Students at those schools will be asked to sign an attendance pledge, and there are plans to measure student response and attendance over the course of the school year.

Photo by WzrdsRule via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0 License

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