Broken communities -> disconnected students = skyrocketing truancy rates


From 2013 “Halve the Gap” report on disconnected youth

According to a new study to be unveiled Thursday, Chicago and Illinois school dropout rates appear to be declining, but truancy and chronic truancy are dramatically escalating.

The study, by Dr. Andrew Sum of Boston’s Northeastern University, will be presented at a forum which will also feature panelists from CPS, the state legislature, and local alternative school administrators. Pre-registration for the event has closed, but you can still probably show up and get in to hear the presentation scheduled from 9:30 to noon at Chicago’s Union League Club, 65 W. Jackson.

I don’t know what Dr. Sum will say tomorrow and I’m no scientist, but it’s clear to me that city policies have completely sabotaged the feelings of belonging and engagement that students need to stick with school. Chicago’s formerly proud, vibrant and close-knit communities have been decimated by Mayor Emanuel’s devastating school closings. Neighborhood schools that are still open are forced to compete with self-contained charter schools which generally have little connection to the community where they are sited.

How many students have been rejected by a charter school? How many have no neighborhood school at all? How many have given up going to school out of fear for their safety? Whose set our children up this way?

I am suspicious of upbeat drop out numbers from the “cook-the-books” folks at CPS. There have also been changes in the way dropouts are counted. Though I can’t prove it, I believe that more students drop out at earlier ages (which the Consortium on Chicago School Research’s Ending Social Promotion study found to be true of students flunked under CPS’s terrible elementary promotion policy).

The press alert on tomorrow’s event says that the presentation of this new data is intended to support the work of the Truancy in the Chicago Public Schools Task Force which will convene on Friday, December 6, 2013. Where do you think they will go to look for answers?

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Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.