West Middle School leadership

West Middle School principal Chance Whitmore, left, and assistant principal Drew Hellwege, right, pose outside of West Middle after spending the afternoon knocking on student doors. Even months into the school year the administration team was visiting student houses, making sure they knew the whereabouts of each student they expected to see in school.

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More than 11,600 students expected to return to Idaho’s public schools this fall never showed up, according to State Board of Education data, writes Idaho Education News reporter Sami Edge. That’s nearly twice as many as the average in years past.

These “no-show” students may have moved out of Idaho. They might be homeschooling or going to a private school that doesn’t report data to the state. Or they could have just stopped attending school.

Idaho’s lax and decentralized enrollment tracking makes it nearly impossible to tell, from a state level, where these students have gone, or if they’re completing the education state law requires for 7- to -16-year-olds.

Local school districts often have a better idea of where these children are — but sometimes they don’t. District leaders tell Idaho Education News that each year there are students who don’t show up, and families they can’t reach. Districts don’t have to tell the state, or a child welfare agency, which of those students they are never able to find.

The fragmented accounting system raises concerns about the oversight of mandatory education, and child safety.

“If we don’t know who has fallen through the cracks, how do we even know to look for them?” said Harold Nevill, CEO of the Canyon Owyhee School Service Agency in Wilder.

You can read Edge's full story here at idahoednews.org, or pick up today's print edition of the Idaho Press; it's on the front page.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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