Habits Hard to Break: A New Look at Truancy in Chicago's Public High Schools

July, 1997
Melissa Roderick, Michael Arney, Michael Axelman, Kneia DaCosta, Cheryl Stelger, Susan Stone, Leticia Villarreal-Sosa, and Elaine Waxman
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This research brief, the first in a series produced by the Student Life in High Schools Project with the assistance of the Consortium on Chicago School Research and the Chicago Public Schools, examines truancy in Chicago's public high schools. It focuses on attendance patterns in the CPS ninth grade class of 1995-1996, comprising some 30,000 adolescents. The main findings of the analysis are the following:

  • A broader conception of truancy is necessary: a problem of students who do not attend school and a problem of students who attend more or less regularly then cut classes.
  • Problem attendance begins early in high school and worsens as the year progresses. Class cutting is widespread.
  • Much of the truancy problem happens because of class cutting, and the truants are often in and around the school.
  • Even top students frequently cut class.

Funding for this project was provided by The Steans Family Foundation, The McDougal Family Foundation, the Center for Research onthe Education of Students Placed at Risk (OERI-G-R117D40005), The Spencer Foundation, and the Chicago Public Schools.

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