According to the Indianapolis Public School system, 94 percent of its students are in class each day. Sounds pretty good, right? But a four-part report this week by the Indianapolis Star, while not exactly disputing that number, tells a very different story. The paper launched an investigation into truancy, defined by the editors as a student having 10 or more unexcused absences, and found that eight of IPS's high schools have a combined truancy rate of 37 percent. In other words, almost 4 in ten students miss at least two weeks of school a year. And at 26 of the district's 51 elementary schools, as many as 18 percent of students are chronically absent. The story is similar in Marion County (reported attendance rate, 90 percent), where in one township a third of students qualify as chronic absentees. One researcher calls truancy "the middle chapter of the dropout story." Students "don't say one morning, 'I'm dropping out.'" IPS may need to implement strict fines, or even press tough criminal charges, against parents whose students don't show up for class. One thing's for sure--it's hard to help all students achieve proficiency in reading and math when kids aren't even in class.

"Too many empty seats in classroom," "A battle with absentees," "From absentees to dropouts," and "Many cases, many causes," Indianapolis Star, April 22-25, 2007

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