By Pat Loeb

By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The White House has announced that Philadelphia is one of ten cities in a pilot program to eliminate high absentee rates for public school students.

The city was chosen because of what it’s already doing.

The effort is called Success Mentors Initiative because it has adults already in a school, coaches, administrators, security guards and others, work one-on-one with at-risk students to address the underlying causes of chronic absenteeism.

While Philadelphia school staff is already stretched thin, program leader Bob Balfanz says their work on reducing absenteeism is promising.

“They’ve actually done some very pioneering work about sending text messages and different types of messaging to parents, and they were able to show with some really solid evidence through even randomized studies that they were able to increase attendance by having the right kind of message to parents.”

The district’s overall attendance rate is 92 percent, but in some high schools it’s less than 80 percent. Balfanz says that’s typical.

“It’s not evenly distributed. It really follows poverty.”

He says mentoring has been shown to eliminate chronic absences which improves student success.