A groundbreaking examination of internal Chicago Public Schools records exposed a grievous injustice and sparked two new state laws and a powerful push for reform. Nearly 32,000 of the city's K-8 grade students — or roughly 1 in 8 —miss a month or more of class per year, while some youngsters vanish from the attendance rolls for years at a stretch, the newspaper's investigation of protected student-level data found. Chicago officials were publishing upbeat statistics that masked the devastating pattern of absenteeism -- even as the missed days robbed youth of their futures and cost taxpayers millions in funding keyed to attendance. The flood of missed days disproportionately impact impoverished African-American youngsters as well as children with disabilities. The journalism drew heavily on social science research methods. In one of many examples, the lead reporter became a Nieman fellow, qualified as a Harvard University researcher on human subjects, then worked through Harvard's Institutional Review Board to obtain and analyze Chicago's attendance database under a contract he crafted between Harvard and the Chicago Public Schools. Based on that research, the reporters subsequently found a way to obtain crucial parts of the data through public records requests.