In 2011, the Berks County commissioners and judges convened a series of stakeholder meetings to gather input on the problem of truancy in Berks County schools. From these meetings, the Truancy Reduction Initiative was created with a steering committee that included representatives from education, the court system, mental health agencies, Berks County Juvenile Probation Office, and the Berks County Children and Youth Services program.
A Truancy Intervention Program was then formed which enabled schools, Magisterial District Judges (MDJs), parents, and community partners to refer a student to a more intensive intervention with the goal of improving attendance, decreasing truancy, and increasing graduation rates.
In 2016, the initiative changed its name to the Berks Initiative for School Attendance (BISA) to reflect the goal of improving student attendance in all grades and decreasing absences for any reason. In partnership with Service Access and Management, Inc. (SAM), the Truancy Remediation Program was renamed the Advancing School Attendance Program (ASAP).
The Berks Initiative for School Attendance / Advancing School Attendance Program is funded through a combination of state and local monies. Due to the continued success of the program, Berks County has been approved to receive this grant since 2012. Because it is categorized as a special grant, the state portion of the grant is 90% and the County portion is only 10% of the total allocation.
The Berks Initiative for School Attendance (BISA) seeks to provide professionals working with children who are chronically absent a means to address the critical issue of school attendance rapidly, consistently, and successfully, within the schools and courts of Berks County. The BISA seeks to reengage students to increase graduation rates and better prepare them for their future. The BISA will focus on children who need the most assistance through periodic evaluation of the program to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of the schools and courts.
The mission of the Berks Initiative for School Attendance is to create a process and protocol that meets the needs of all school districts and courts and to provide a list of suggested intervention techniques that may be utilized by educators, Magisterial District Judges, and court personnel to improve school attendance in Berks County.