Fix 5: Don’t consider attendance in grade determination, report absences separately
There is no need to convince me on this one. The only time I’ve ever even come across this policy is in college classes.
“Standards based learning is not about seat time. It is about what students know, understand, and can do.” (page 47)
I agree with this statement except to say that there are students who need the seat time to learn.
“It is common for schools/districts to go to great lengths to distinguish between excused and unexcused absences, with the difference having a significant impact on grades and the ability of students to ‘make-up’ for absences.”(page 47)
I don’t think I have ever not allowed a student to make-up work based on excused or unexcused absences. As a classroom teacher I didn’t even always know which kind of absence it was and I didn’t really care. I gave the student the work to make-up and told them when I would be available to assist them if they had questions, for me this included students having my school e-mail address so that they could contact me from home.
I have however not allowed students to make-up work due to Out of School Suspension (OSS) policies by the school/district. Depending on the school if a student receives ISS they may be able to make up all work, some work, work only for the first assigned OSS, or no work at all. I discovered my first year that some students love OSS, they get to stay home and play all day because of the attitudes of their families – often either apathy or that old “the teacher/administrator doesn’t like you.” Let me say this I have never had a student I hated, disliked yes it happens, but never hated! I have always been able to find at least one thing I like about a student and I make a concerted effort to keep my feelings to myself, to change my attitude and to not allow my feelings to color my judgement. In the rare occasion where I struggle with this, I take what I’m grading to another teacher for a fresh opinion to double check myself. I’m human I make mistakes, I have feelings!
I had a student that first year I taught “M” who was frequently in OSS by his own admission it meant he could sleep in and play his XBOX all day. The result of his many OSS assignments was failing grades as policy allowed work to be made up for the first OSS.
“M” was not known for doing his work even when he was at school but when he did, at least in my class, I could see that he knew what he was doing. I could see his intelligence. At the end of the year he was suggested for retention. I argued unsuccessfully that he was capable of the work he would be required to do the following year. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he eventually dropped out of school.
The district has since implemented these fixes and I believe if the policy has not yet changed that it will soon. I have heard of school districts that have an alternative center and students who are on OSS can go that building for their time and if they do their work is counted. This is a step in the right direction. It’s unfortunate that not all districts have the facilities or budget to make this a requirement.
“The author says “In some of the school in which I taught it was a common practice (especially in physical education) to include a fixed number of points for attendance and to deduct one or two points per absence.’” (page 48)
I know that this happens I don’t recall that I have ever been in a school that had this occur. I know when I was in high school PE we lost points for not dressing out but they had scheduled make-ups after school, you ran the track. After asking some former classmates and other friends that I went to school with they told me that yes they did get lower grades for absences or not dressing out. As a matter of fact one friend had to retake gym in summer school because of the high number of times not dressing out.
“One aspect of attendance and grades that presents a real dilemma is when there are requirements that students attend certain out-of-school activities or performances, such as concerts in a music course or performances in a drama course.” (page 48)
A choir teacher I worked with had a back up plan for kids who missed concerts, they wrote a paper on a musical topic. This to me was a great idea because there are things that happen and you sometimes can’t help but miss a performance. I don’t want a puking student at a conference so if we have a strict must attend all concerts/performances or get an Incomplete, an I that may never be changed because there are no replacement concerts you will have sick kids there or angry parents in your office. There needs to be some other option. Incomplete will not look good when applying to colleges yet the student with appendicitis, mono, the student who lost a family member and is attending a funeral or other honest to goodness excusable absence has no way to explain that I to college application review boards or defend it. I think students being given the option to do a solo performance for the teacher or write a paper on a composer from the concert would be great alternatives.
I like that the teacher went out of his way to help and work with the student in his class even going against school policy but I have an honest concern: what would happen if someone else found out and complained? What would the school do? Would they support the teacher for helping the student achieve or would disciplinary action be taken because the teacher broke policy?