CHICAGO (WLS) -- If public education is considered an investment in our future, then Chicago has a serious problem with the rate of return.
New data obtained by the ABC7 I-Team reveals about 30% of Chicago public school students are at risk of not taking part in classes during the 2021-2022 school year.
"We identified students based on their attendance, truancy, grades, discipline. And so, we identified specific indicators and weighed them and identified who was at risk, who was at high risk of not re-engaging," said Interim CEO of Chicago Public Schools Dr. Jose Torres.
"Not re-engaging" is CPS-talk for playing hooky, the old-school term for students who are habitually absent, AWOL from classes, or just don't show up for school.
According to new data obtained by the I-Team after a public records request, CPS has identified 100,274 students as "considered to be in need of interventions or outreach in order to facilitate their full engagement for the upcoming school year."
In other words, 100,274 students are likely to regularly skip class or be late - about a third of the entire district.
The significant number of missing students is not for want of trying, according to CPS officials and City Hall.
"Literally, from the end of June when school ended last year there was a very robust outreach plan put in place, helped identify the students that we needed to reach out to, our building principals in the teams at the school level, but there's a huge amount of work that went into place, every single day, postcards, door knocks, text messages, and the like to really reach out to those students that we were most concerned about, to let them know if, first of all, figure out what support they needed over the course of the summer and then obviously to let them know when school was starting, and additional support that they would need," said Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Curie High School on the Southwest Side has the most students in need of interventions, followed by Taft High School on the Northwest Side, Kelly High on the Southwest Side, Juarez High in Pilsen and Simeon on the South Side.
"We track everything, so from attempts, not being able to connect, to attempts and connections. And so all of that is tracked, and so we will be doing that same kind of follow up as a result of this week's attendance and engagement," said Dr. Torres.
CPS officials said data for their "outreach efforts" is still being compiled and the interventions aimed at returning AWOL students to class continues.
It is an issue that recalls what one former Wisconsin congressman said: "If we get public education right, everything else will follow. But if we get it wrong, not much else will matter."