Thursday, December 29, 2005

You could have just asked the teachers and administrators

The Los Angeles Times is reporting on a story that is all too familiar with teachers, absences. According to the paper, L.A. area school are losing millions because of the massive drop in attendance, whether it be because of illness, vacation, or senioritis. The "in-thing" to do now is to try and bribe the kids into coming to school by offering attendance raffles. Cars, I-pods, or in the case of our district, $25 (it rolls over to the next student chosen, so it gets bigger each week that it goes unclaimed). Personally, I like the idea of charging parents that want to take their kids out of school for a nice vacation during school days, as Temecula Valley is doing.

Clearly the schools are in a bind. However, pandering to the already rampant consumer attitude is hardly making the high school age kids show up for school more often. There is always the threat of going after the parents, except that our law enforcement up in this neck of the woods is already understaffed as it is. Here are a couple of solutions that I think should go into effect to help attendance:

1) Make a mandatory minimum number of days that a student must attend school. If the student misses too many days, for any reason, that student fails to acquire the appropriate credits. In the case of severe distress, form a committee to oversee these requests. Otherwise, lets teach the kids that missing work because of the sniffles will cost them.

2) Teachers keep a consistent policy towards cuts and absences. In my opinion, the administration wants the kids to attend class, and is only part of the problem in terms of enforcement. In our school, the administration does an excellent job in trying to get the kids to stick around. However the teachers don't enact a strong policy of punishing cuts and absences. 1/4 of my students will often only attend my class because they know that it really hurts them to miss it. That isn't the case in other classes. Only through consistent and demanding policy will the students get the message.

3) Make it affect their grade. Every student has 100 participation points at the beginning of the semester. Every tardy after the second is minus 5, every cut is minus 10. After 5 cuts, they automatically fail the course. I have Seniors that will figure this out only after they fail my first semester of Government. They shouldn't have to. It should be made much more apparent earlier.

4) Make the make-up work harder. It is amazing how students show up when they realize that the make-up quiz is an essay quiz, or that a simple attendance quiz has turned into "Name all the Standing Committees in the U.S. Senate", and for fun add "........and do it alphabetically". Think its mean? I think that taking up my lunch period giving make-up quizzes is mean.

5) Fine the parents. This is going to sound wildly unpopular when you introduce this to lower income communities, but it will make an impact. Fine them the ADA that the child took away by constantly missing class, and make it in the form of a citation. Many parents have plenty of disposable income, case in point, the enormous purchasing power that teenagers have these days. Make it law and hit the pocketbook.

6) Enforce the DMV law about revoking licenses. It is threatened in the Driver's Handbook that ditching school could result in a loss of a Driver's License. Ok, now let's enforce it.

Some of you might think that this is too much "stick" and not enough "carrot". In my eyes, a high school diploma is a nice sized carrot. If students can't attend a place where they are supported, educated, safe, and cared for, then take away the carrot and whip out the stick. It could save the schools millions.
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