Today way the last workday of the 2011-2012 school year. At our last staff meeting we discussed: attendance, grades, make-up work/tests, test re-takes, and late work. I would like to take a few minutes to get my ideas on paper while they are still fresh in my head. I am still working through what I believe on these issues; here is my rant. Please remember that my ideas are for high school (specifically juniors and seniors).
Today I will tackle Attendance...
The state policy is that students who have ten or more absences in the semester fail the course. This policy is rarely followed because the principals have the freedom to create their own workable policy. I like the idea of attendance being required because class time is immensely valuable for interaction, collaboration, and social learning. The quality of education is much higher when it is shared with a small group of individuals. Therefore, if a student is absent over 10% of the semester, they are losing valuable classroom learning time.
The student may be learning outside of the classroom, but there is no true accountability and the student is not getting the full benefit of journey that the class takes. A student who scores an 85% on all assignments while attending class is gaining a more social and rounded education than a student who scores an 85% on all of their make-up assignments.
So, should a student fail if they do not show up for the required number of classes? This is a difficult question, but I believe that a student who misses 25% of the class should be required to make up that attendance somehow (or fail). The class is not simply about the mastery of the content and skills but about the collaboration and discussion involved.
If we are not concerned about the attendance, why don’t we simply have online courses that students can complete in their leisure or at a central computer lab? There would be no wasted money on so many teachers, classrooms, etc. A school district could have one large computer lab that employed 3 or 4 support lab administrators.
There is something to be said about the personal interaction of a facilitator and students that cannot be captured when a student misses class.
For 95% of the students in our schools, there should be an attendance policy. There will always be the 5% that legitimately cannot be present in class and must have the ability to graduate fro high school, but the majority of students should be engaged in corporate learning.
I see this in my own life. I can read and study a subject until I believe that I have mastered it, but as soon as I join a dialogue with someone about the content, I am stretched in my learning and gain a new perspective that must be heeded.