The Boston Public Schools had their first day of the new school year on Thursday and new Superintendent Brenda Cassellius has been working to ensure increased attendance. In an effort to discourage truancy, Cassellius went to the homes and knocked on the doors of students who've had absenteeism problems.

Paul Reville, former Massachusetts Secretary of Education, joined Boston Public Radio on Thursday to speak about the precedent that Casselius' efforts set for the future of reducing truancy.

"She's doing a number of things right and symbolically she's sending the right signals," Reville said. "Of course it'll all be about follow through in the long run. It's long been a prominent problem in the Boston Public Schools, but the chronic attendance problems are a huge factor in the failure of many of our urban school systems."

Taking a policing approach to deal with absent students isn't an effective long-term solution, Reville said.

"A lot of people take a law enforcement view of truancy thinking that we just need to send out pseudo law enforcement people to bang on doors and corral people back to school. But that doesn't tend to work over time," he said. "What really is a factor in chronic attendance problems are chronic problems in the lives of the children who aren't showing up. So reaching out to those families, having a conversation and finding out what's getting in the way is really important. That's what this kind of outreach signals."

Reville is a professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, where he also runs the Education Redesign Lab. His latest book, co-authored with Elaine Weiss, is Broader, Bolder, Better: How Schools and Communities Help Students Overcome the Disadvantages of Poverty.