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“The Missing Link: Bridging the Gap between School Climate Policies and the Harsh Reality of Chicago Public Schools that Leads to Chronic Absenteeism”

Author: Haniyyah Thomas

Department: UIC Institute for Policy & Civic Engagement

Advisor: Dr. Joseph K. Hoereth, IPCE

Abstract: Chronic absenteeism is a pervasive issue acknowledged nationally as an "educational crisis" by the U.S. Department of Education. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) grapple with this challenge, evident in low graduation and matriculation rates across numerous schools. This study delves into one critical factor hindering student attendance: school climate. The investigation considers aspects such as the expression of students' social environment, connection to the school, teacher-student relationships, and engagement in social activities. Utilizing a multifaceted approach, this research integrates data from recent articles, survey responses collected by CPS, and on-site observations at Wendell Phillips Academy High School (Phillips), a CPS high school currently contending with chronic absenteeism. The outcomes of this study will culminate in a practical framework designed to assess school climate. This framework aims to highlight areas of improvement and furnish recommendations for school leaders to enhance attendance. The proposed framework is not only a tool for Phillips' leadership but also a valuable resource applicable across CPS. School leaders within CPS can employ this framework to evaluate similar institutions, fostering growth and providing actionable recommendations. In essence, this framework serves as a policy recommendation, offering a strategic guide for school leaders to address chronic absenteeism and improve overall school climate within the CPS system.

Keywords: chronic absenteeism, Chicago Public Schools (CPS), school climate, Illinois State Board of Education