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Venture-funded company makes it a mission to reduce skyrocketing student absenteeism

Concentric Educational Solutions collaborates with Detroit-area schools to address the rising issue of absenteeism.

Equities editorial director

In Ecorse, Michigan, Shepria Johnson, part of the “Student Wholeness Team,” is on a mission to combat truancy, starting with a visit to Kuanticka Prude’s home, reads a story published by ProPublica. Prude, a mother of eight working as a security guard, struggles with ensuring her children’s school attendance.

Prude’s two kids, Jisaiah and King, had been missing school, assuming their mother would be at work. Johnson’s role involves understanding why children are missing school and helping them get back on track. She is employed by Concentric Educational Solutions, which collaborates with several Detroit-area schools to address the rising issue of absenteeism, exacerbated by the pandemic.

Concentric received a grant from NewSchools Venture Fund in 2010. Employees including Johnson have made 400,000 home visits since then.

Detroit’s industrial suburbs feature a widespread problem of chronic absenteeism, particularly post-Covid. Johnson’s home visits are part of a broader, supportive strategy to engage families and understand the underlying reasons for absenteeism, ranging from mental health issues to practical challenges like transportation or clothing. The approach contrasts with traditional punitive measures and emphasizes collaboration and support.

Despite federal pandemic-recovery funds, little has been allocated to combat absenteeism, an issue linked to declining academic achievement and increased youth violence. Concentric’s founder, David Heiber, advocates for direct intervention, drawing from his personal experiences of overcoming adversity.

The historical evolution of mandatory schooling in the U.S. has shifted from legal enforcement to more empathetic, supportive methods. That’s as some families face unstable housing, health issues, and economic hardships, underscoring the need for a societal approach to reinforce the importance of education.

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