It doesn’t get more fundamental. If high school students do not come to school or skip class, they cannot succeed. The school cannot succeed. And not unimportantly, the school cannot collect as much state aid, which is based on attendance.

So now attention turns to truancy, yet another marker by which Proviso Township high schools are in a world of hurt. The state of Illinois defines chronic truancy as nine or more unexcused absences in a school year. That state average for chronic truancy is 10 percent. Two years ago at Proviso East that percentage was 43 percent. Last year it was an astronomical 79 percent. Some in the district question that number and insist it has to be some sort of statistical anomaly.

Even if it is, East is still at four times the state average. And worryingly, if you believe the stats, truancy rocketed last year at the Proviso Math and Science Academy after years of very strong attendance.

Can a strong and effective approach be mounted using existing resources of social workers and counselors? Or should the district turn to an outside entity, West 40 Intermediate Service Center, to institute an alternative learning option that would focus on a fairly small group of truant freshman and sophomores?

Nothing is easy in this school district. We understand that. But education only happens when a student walks through the doors.

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