How many CPS students will be absent on the 1st day of school? 35,000 were absent last year!

Last year CPS was dancing in the streets over a successful first day attendance record. The Track E schools had a first day attendance rate of 88.1% (Up from 86.8% in 2010) and the Track R schools had a rate of 94.7% (Up from 92.9 in 2010). If you take an average of the two (91.4%) and multiply it by the 404,151 students you get 34,757. CPS lists 91.4% on its website as its 2011-2012 citywide attendance rate. I think there should be a larger disclaimer that that number was provided in September 2011. That's roughly 35,000 students that did not come to school on the first day!

I don't believe for a second that there were 35,000 kids sick on the first day of school. Where were they and what were they doing? Where were their parents? Were they at a baseball game? US Cellular Field and Wrigley Field hold around 40,000 people so the number students that didn't attend school on the first day could have almost filled a baseball stadium.

High school attendance rates tend to be lower than elementary schools because once the teen leaves home he/she is on their own and they may choose to take a detour and not go to school. That happens a lot, actually. Most elementary school children are walked or driven to school by their parents. The crazy thing about this story is that this is the response that CPS got after a major back-to-school campaign! Academy award winner Jennifer Hudson recorded a robo call that was issued to parents, CPS parents managed phone banks to call families, the CTA gave out free rides to students and their parents and the Museum of Science and Industry gave free passes to each child that attended school on the first day. I became annoyed with the campaign after the second phone call.  I was tired of answering my phone to hear recordings about the actual date of the first day of school and how important it is for my child to attend school on the first day. I'm sure there was a lot of money and time involved in this campaign that could have been spent in the classroom and that is why I find this really sad.

I looked at the attendance data for the nine selective enrollment highs schools. See my spreadsheet here.  I was not very impressed but maybe I have totally unrealistic expectations. I expected these schools to have very high attendance rates because these students are supposed to be the best and the brightest students in the city. They will be totally focused on school and will not ditch because their parents care and would kill them if they did. WRONG!!! The average daily attendance rate across all nine schools is 93.4%. If you assume that each classroom holds 30 students, then all of the schools were missing at least one classroom of students everyday and at least one school was missing 5 classrooms of students everyday.  If we can't get the best students to come to school, what can we expect from everyone else.?

The campaign this year will be no different. I received a robo call from Mayor Emanuel and I believe that I received one from CEO Brizard a few weeks ago. There was an email in my inbox from CEO Brizard a few weeks ago asking me to volunteer to work the phone banks to tell families about the first day of school and how important it is. I am normally the queen of volunteering but I just couldn't do it. I'm tired of working hard as a parent because other parents don't do the right thing and I needed a break. People should not have to be bribed and cajoled into sending their children to school to get a free education.

Teachers can't teach children who are not in school.  Children who are not in school can't learn.  Parents must value education and they must teach their children the value of education.  Maybe next year Mayor Emanuel can go and knock on a few doors and ask the parents why their children are not in school.

Thanks for reading!

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