BATON ROUGE – The LSU Office of Social Service Research and Development, or OSSRD, in the LSU School of Social Work, has determined it will end its 16-year involvement with the Truancy Assessment and Service Center, or TASC, program, effective July 1, 2013.
The mid-year budget reduction fell onto the evaluation and administration component of the $2.3 million truancy intervention program.
In 1997, the Louisiana Legislature commissioned a study to develop a model program that could prevent children from following a pathway into crime. OSSRD responded and began to work with members of the state legislature and local entities across the state to devise a program that could address this juvenile crisis initiative.
“LSU developed the TASC program in 1998 to address problems that our research showed to be specific to Louisiana children and that our citizens said was needed for local entities to be successful in helping youth stay in school,” said OSSRD Director and School of Social Work Professor Cecile Guin. “Louisiana is among several states that have the poorest children in the country and the most children living in single female-headed households – facts that certainly contribute to Louisiana’s ongoing highest incarceration rate in the world.”
The early intervention model interrupts the cycle of truancy which is often followed by early school drop-out, corresponding lack of job skills and potential involvement in criminal activity. Jefferson and Caddo parishes were the first TASC pilot sites. At one time, OSSRD managed 23 TASC sites covering 32 parishes.
Since 2001, TASC has received 105,292 student referrals, served 81,956 at-risk students and families, and more than 450 public schools in Louisiana. Through OSSRD’s empirical evaluation, it has been determined that 73 percent of TASC children show a reduction in the percentage of days missed, and the average TASC student shows a reduction from 7.1 missed school days to 4.9 missed school days after TASC intervention. Less than 2 percent of TASC children are eventually referred to court. OSSRD’s evaluation has consistently shown that at-risk truant children who receive TASC services are significantly more likely to return to school and remain there when compared to at-risk truant children who do not receive TASC services. As TASC has matured, there has been a continual overall decline in the amount of time TASC children are absent from school.
According to a cost-benefit analysis performed in 2007 by the LSU Office of Economic Development, TASC could save the state millions of dollars in future lost wages, productivity and costs of crime.
OSSRD’s empirical analysis of outcomes and the focus on cost-benefit analyses has made the program attractive to legislators because of sound evidence that TASC gets children back in school. Although TASC sites are skilled in providing services to students, few of them, if any, have the capacity to perform the evaluative function.
OSSRD is a unit of the School of Social Work in the LSU College of Human Sciences & Education. To learn more about LSU OSSRD and the School of Social Work, visit www.socialwork.lsu.edu.