When Grand Rapids Schools Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal visits schools and classrooms, she can't help but notice the empty seats.
More than one in four students missed at least 10 days with unexcused absences in 2011-12, one of the highest rates in the state. And some parents and guardians may not even realize when it's happening in their own family.
"A child missing a day here, or two days there or three days a month, it really adds up over the course of a year," Neal says. "Instruction is going on every single day, from bell to bell. Even bringing kids in a couple of hours late, or picking them up early -- all of that goes against instructional time."