Farragut High in Little Village, a large, low-income neighborhood school that has seen tough times, has one of the best attendance records among Chicago’s neighborhood high schools.
Last school year, the official rate was 90 percent, four points above the citywide average for high schools. An analysis by the Consortium on Chicago School Research suggests that class cutting is still a problem, but Farragut’s numbers are better than the district’s as a whole. In spring 2004, 42 percent of freshmen missed more than two weeks in a major subject, compared to a district average of 49 percent for freshmen.
Judging from the anti-truancy program Farragut has put together, those figures are not a fluke.
The school has assigned three aides and three parent volunteers to serve as attendance “case managers” for 10 or 15 homerooms apiece. The case managers follow students throughout their high school careers to get to know them, their parents and issues that might interfere with attendance.
The first time a student cuts a class, the case manager calls home and requests a parent conference, according to Assistant Principal Theresa Plascencia. If a parent can’t be reached, the case manager makes a home visit, she says. “The [idea] is to deter cutting before it becomes a problem.”