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New Orleans Schools Try New Ways to Combat Truancy

In New Orleans, truancy is a continuing problem for schools struggling to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. John Merrow continues his series on troubled public schools.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Next, the latest in our series of reports on fixing troubled school systems in two cities. Tonight, the NewsHour's special correspondent for education, John Merrow, returns to New Orleans to see how efforts to crack down on big truancy problems are faring.

  • TRUANCY OFFICER:

    Now, where has this boy gone?

    JOHN MERROW, NewsHour correspondent: These officers are part of a new task force in New Orleans. Their job is to search the streets for teenagers who ought to be in school.

  • TRUANCY OFFICER:

    Why you all late?

  • STUDENT:

    Just missed the streetcar.

  • TRUANCY OFFICER:

    You just missed the streetcar? Which means what? You need to get up a little earlier, right, and get out your house a little earlier, right?

  • STUDENT:

    Right.

  • TRUANCY OFFICER:

    Come on. It's truancy. Truancy is now in effect.

  • JOHN MERROW:

    On an average day in New Orleans' Recovery School District, about 20 percent of the students miss high school. That's nearly 800 teenagers.

  • LINDSAY ORDOWER, Teacher, Frederick A. Douglass High School:

    Kevin, where's Kevin?

  • JOHN MERROW:

    Lindsey Ordower teaches at Douglass High School.

  • LINDSAY ORDOWER:

    Nadia.

    This is physical science, and I have 26 students on my roster, but on any given day I can expect about 17.

  • JOHN MERROW:

    You have 10 right now.

  • LINDSAY ORDOWER:

    Yes.

  • JOHN MERROW:

    One of them — one just came in.

  • LINDSAY ORDOWER:

    Tardiness is also a problem.

    Thank you. Any more power-ups from last week?

    Yesterday, I saw a girl who has been on my roster since Aug. 14. We're in the second week of November, and I did not recognize her yesterday.

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