09/08/2011 03:38 pm ET Updated Nov 08, 2011

CPS: First Day Attendance Hits All-Time High

Chicago Public School students were marked "present" in record numbers on the first day of school this year, with attendance up almost two percent from last year.

Attendance Tuesday was reported at 94.7 percent, up from 92.9 percent last year, according to a CPS news release. Campaigns to improve first-day attendance this year included automated phone call reminders recorded by Dunbar High graduate and American Idol starlet Jennifer Hudson and other celebrities, and free CTA service for students and parents travelling to school Tuesday, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Mayor Rahm Emanuel called on city department agencies, businesses and community organizations to boost school attendance.

Officials say this year's turnout was the highest first-day attendance recorded since they began using a new system to calculate attendance four years ago, WGN reports.

“This year, we took an unprecedented approach to build awareness among families and students all over the city about being in school on the first day, which is critical to student success,’’Chicago Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said in a news release.

About a third of Chicago's public schools started early this year, on Aug. 8, where school officials also reported gains, logging an 88.1 percent attendance rate, up from 86.8 percent last year.

Approximately 405,000 students attend more than 675 Chicago schools, the Associated Press reports.

The improvement in Chicago schools' attendance will undoubtedly attract the attention of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who formerly served as CEO of CPS and was in Detroit Thursday criticizing the city's 55 percent first-day turnout. Duncan, who is currently on an education bus tour, will be in Chicago Friday and participate in a panel discussion with Mayor Emanuel, Brizard and Gov. Pat Quinn.

Flickr photo by corsi photo.