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Michigan Schools Deal with More Students Skipping Classes

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Michigan education officials are looking for ways to address an increase in chronic absenteeism among students.

The number of students chronically absent rose to 15.6 percent in the 2016-2017 school year, up from 14.7 percent the year before, the Detroit News reported .

That means more than 233,500 students were absent for 10 percent of the academic year. Students can be absent for a number of reasons including lack of transportation, illness, anxiety, suspension from school and mental health issues, experts say.

The highest rates of chronic absenteeism last school year were among kindergarteners and high school seniors, with rates of about 20 percent, according to state data.

"We have a lot of kids missing a lot of school," said Carolyn Claerhout, a truancy expert at Oakland Schools, which serves local districts in Oakland County. "We get it — that this is what we need to have districts focus on."

Michigan's Every Student Succeeds Act was approved last month and requires chronic absenteeism rates to be a factor in measuring school quality.

Absenteeism increases the chances that children will have reading issues in elementary school, fail classes in middle school and drop out of high school, according to education experts.

"The data is clear on the negative outcomes. If you aren't there, you aren't being successful," said Kyle Guerrant, deputy superintendent of finance and operations with the Michigan Department of Education.

Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti has moved attendance agents into schools to help locate absent students. Vitti's staff will meet with principals to see how they're improving attendance and share best practices.

The district will also launch a formal plan next school year to address chronic absenteeism by using more in-school suspensions in place of out-of-school suspensions, Vitti said.

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