Thursday, December 27, 2007

Attendance Update

Looking at the new attendance policy's (the entirely punitive, unyielding policy we currently use) effects on absences and tardies, the preliminary numbers don't show success as of yet when looking at my past grade books. My look at the numbers is not a pure, scientific look, but it is what I'm seeing.

I truly believe we are punishing the symptom of the problem. We don't cure appendicitis by giving the patient Tylenol for the pain. Masking the symptom doesn't cure the disease. Our attendance system punishes the symptom (absences and tardies) instead of curing the disease (attitudes about class and school).

Following this post is a brief recap of what the staff was shown this year.

This is what I've found so far on a per student basis, keeping in mind that the new policy began in 2006:

1. Overall 1st semester absences have risen from 8.9 to 9.3 per student from 2005 until now. This is about an increase of 75 total absences.
2. Overall 2nd semester absences have risen from 9.6 to 10.5 from 2005 until 2006. Obviously this year's 2nd semester numbers won't be ready until June. This is an increase of about 162 total absences.
3. Honors students' absences have risen from 3.9 to 7.0 during 1st semester (2005-2007) and from 4.9 to 6.1 during 2nd semester (2005-2006).
4. Non-Honors students' absences have risen from 10.3 to 10.8 during 1st semester (2005-2007) and from 11.0 to 12.1 during 2nd semester (2005-2006).
5. Tardies have declined for honors students and risen slightly for non-honors students.

What I'm seeing in my classes is that absences are on the rise, slightly in some cases but rising nevertheless. The honors students have effectively deciphered the system and are maximizing their absences with the fewest number of negative consequences. They openly discuss how they can dodge detentions while still missing classes.

Additionally, I looked at absences by subject and period. Students in my Sophomore English courses (the lowest level I have) have the highest increase in absences while 1st period absences have risen more than any other period. I wonder what the Freshman rates are.

We have one administrator and three full-time employees essentially working their entire shifts on this attendance system. I'm not sure what the answer is, but I do know this system is not cost effective and is not going to solve the problem.

Brief Recap from an earlier post:

"At a staff meeting we were shown a chart detailing how the number of assigned detentions has risen for attendance infractions and another chart detailing how many absences are labeled excused and unexcused. These were presented to illustrate our increasing successes in "solving" the attendance problem.

At the beginning of the year we were told the measure of success would be the declining numbers of absences and tardies. However, this presentation did not show that data.

Two staff members before me asked questions which were not really answered, so I asked what our ultimate goal is with the new attendance policy (we had the same one last year, but this year we give double the detention time and only track tardies on a weekly basis rather than through a full semester). I stated the data shows parents are doing a better job of calling in and excusing absences and we are doing a better job of enforcing consequences for unexcused absences and tardies, but isn't the number of absences and tardies our true goal? What are those numbers?"

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