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More than one-third of the students in New York City's public high schools are chronically absent, and another 13 percent of the students are absent often enough to require teachers to make extraordinary efforts in order to follow a coherent lesson plan, according to the board of education.

The survey on absenteeism, conducted at the request of The New York Times, also revealed that more than half of the failing grades in high school last spring were given because of school rules that required students to attend a minimum number of hours before they could receive a passing grade.

Schools with programs in career subjects, such as business and communications, have better attendance than others, the data show.

Efforts to improve attendance with attendance goals and plans in each high school (by making vocational-education programs more flexible, evaluating principals' attendance efforts, and increasing extracurricular activities) so far have not yielded any noticeable effects, a board spokesman said.

Board officials said they consider students "chronically absent" when they miss 15 days per 90-day semester.

The national average rate of attendance is about 94 percent from kindergarten through the 12th grade, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. New York City's average is 79.9 percent, lower than most other large cities in the state, according to the New York State Department of Education.

About 40 Massachussetts students were forced to walk to school or find carpools for three days as punishment for failing to tattle on students who had been smoking marijuana on a bus ride to school last month.

A bus driver for Higgens Junior High School in Peabody drove the bus to the police station on instructions from her dispatcher after she complained of becoming ill because of the marijuana smoke.

The students' bus privileges were revoked for three days when they refused to tell police who had been smoking marijuana.

Police did not search the students because they did not have warrants, but they found several marijuana cigarettes and two hashish pipes in the bus.

Robert Ireland, superintendent of the Peabody Public School System, said many parents had complained about the punishment because "they said it was unfair to penalize all the students for the indiscretions of a few."

But he also received "about 50" calls from people congratulating him for taking the action.

The enrollment increase recorded this fall in the Los Angeles Unified School District is due to a steady increase in the number of Hispanic students.

This year there are about 14,000 more Hispanic students in the system than last year, officials say. These students now represent 49 percent of the district's enrollment.

For a decade there has been a trend toward a majority Hispanic enrollment in the district, and next year Hispanic students are expected to be the majority student group.

Total student enrollment in the district was about 550,000 this year, a slight increase over last year.

The Dallas school board and those of 14 surrounding suburban communities have taken the unprecedented step of joining forces to further their interests on school-finance issues before the Texas legislature.

"We're going to work together to push for some consideration in the school-funding formula of the burdens we face in running schools in densely populated areas--such as having a high number of special-ed students," said Robby V. Collins, a deputy associate superintendent in the Dallas system.

Such additional costs to urban school systems are often termed "municipal overburden."

"In the past, we were semi-adversaries with the suburban districts on finance issues," Mr. Collins said "But now their enrollments are leveling off after going through a period of tremendous growth and we are facing the same kind of problems.

"Hopefully," he said, "we will be able to expand our coalition to include the 56 school systems in the four largest counties in the state. Although there are 1,072 school systems in the state, these 56 have 60 percent of the kids. That's why our interests are not always served by the state school-boards association, which operates on the one-system, one-vote principle."

A New Jersey music teacher was shot and killed last week on a sidewalk 15 feet from the school in which she taught, where adult-education classes and a volleyball game were taking place.

Mary Christine Thick, 33, was attacked and shot last week as she dropped off lesson plans for a substitute teacher at Franklin Township High School.

Police said they suspected that Michael Ramble, a former student at the school, was responsible for the murder.

The 18-year-old died after shooting himself in the head as detectives entered the home of his parents to investigate the murder.

The victim's purse was found empty near a roadside hedge two blocks from the school.

Ms. Thick joined the faculty in Franklin Township four years ago.

The school's 1,800 students were sent home and classes were cancelled on Tuesday. The building's flag was flown at half-mast in mourning.

Vol. 02, Issue 17

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