According to a new report, what looks like improvement in Illinois’ high school dropout rate may be misleading. The study released Thursday by the Alternative Schools Network says that 8.2 percent of 16- to 24 year-olds in Illinois who aren’t in school don’t have a high school diploma. Executive director Jack Wuest says since the Illinois State Board of Education changed its definition of a dropout, making a fair analysis is difficult.
“We’re not clear about the trend,” Wuest said. “If you on a line graph on these reports, it looks like a rocket ship taking off, because it just goes kind of flat and then it goes, zooms way up.”
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The board changed the definition of dropout to focus on high school students only, rather than all students from kindergarten up. That would have decreased the number of reported dropouts, according to Wuest.
The report says changes to the definition of “chronic truancy” have had a different impact. The board now considers a student to be chronically truant after nine unexcused absences rather than 18, which likely explains why that number almost tripled from 2011 to 2012.