CHICAGO
08/12/2011 02:27 pm ET | Updated Oct 12, 2011

Chicago School First-Day Attendance Rises At Early-Start Schools

It looks like a massive publicity campaign, including a door-to-door outreach by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard, paid off.

Attendance at the first day of Chicago's early-starting schools was up to 88.1 percent this year, from 86.8 percent last year. That increase comes despite the addition of 52 new schools to the earlier "Track E" schedule this year, according to the Chicago Tribune, bringing the number of students on the early track to around 120,000.

Track E schools started Monday morning, with Brizard ringing the bell at Harper High School in the West Englewood neighborhood to start the year. The schools aren't in session for any more days than a traditional Chicago public school; instead, they start earlier, but have two- to three-week breaks periodically throughout the year, rather than one long summer vacation.

The 88.1 percent figure is the highest that Chicago Public Schools has recorded for Track E schools since it began tracking the data more carefully several years ago.

Up next: the more than 300,000 students whose first day is September 6.

The Chicago Sun-Times writes that the district's bringing out the big guns for that first day. Chicago Public Schools has solicited robocalls or public service announcements from some of Chicago's biggest celebrities to remind students to start on time.

Grammy Award-winners Jennifer Hudson and Common -- whose mother Mahalia Hines is on the Chicago Board of Education -- are confirmed, as are Ozzie Guillen and A.J. Pierzynski of the White Sox, Kerry Wood of the Chicago Cubs, and Israel Idonije of the Chicago Bears.