State should tighten laws concerning school absenteeism

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 2:34 PM

Contributed, Don Carper


When the Legislature prepares to meet, I’d like to ask its members to address the absenteeism problem in our schools. So far, we have been in school for 58 days. In that time, I have had 631 absences among my students. That means that besides preparing my daily lesson plans, teaching my classes, correcting papers, marking down scores for all my classes, I’ve had to go back and provide 631 individual lesson instructions, correct 631 assignments individually, and enter 631 separate grades——

all for absent students. That’s more than 10 per day, every day, week after week. It can be overwhelming.

I have 10 students who have missed 10-15 days, seven students who have missed 16-20 days, and two students who have missed 30-40 days out of the 58 we’ve had so far. These students have been absent from school this much year after year. Even without the millions we spend on testing every year, I can tell you that these students have learned little from me (or from previous teachers, either). Obviously, they won’t learn much from any teacher in any school unless their attendance patterns change. And, I fear they won’t make very dependable employees for any business when they become adults.

Individual teachers can’t fix this, yet we’ll be judged by our test scores that include these students. Likewise, individual schools are limited in what they can do to fix this problem, but they will be graded by the performance of these students on the end-of-level tests.

It’s up to the state to solve this problem. Tighten up the laws governing school attendance and provide some concrete consequences to students and parents for failure to attend.

Don Carper


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