This school year I have withdrawn several students from our school for significant non-attendance. I am not happy with this “solution”, but it is part of the protocol in our district. I am still responsible to guide the students into the next appropriate option for them – some choose to access our Distance Ed model, some choose web-based options like EBUS, and some are supported in site based programs at our Centre for Learning Alternatives. These are all great programs with top notch educators supporting the students, but I still feel that I have somehow failed the student at the local community level. My feelings of uneasiness led me to do some research on attendance and absenteeism, and how others deal with it.
Here is some of what I found in my research:
when a student is away, a gap in learning is often created
troubled students tend to have multiple gaps spanning years
students often need help to advocate for their learning
classroom instruction and learning is often contextual and difficult to make up
students who are frequently absent may become disconnected from school and lack key relationships with teachers
it is difficult to replicate the experience of teacher and student engaging together in the classroom
Here is a clip I found on the web that was produced by the Wake County Public School System in Raleigh, North Carolina. I like how they focus on learning as the key issue, rather than absenteeism.
Our provincial laws and district policies:
the School Act states that “A parent of a student of school age attending a school is entitled to be informed ... of the student’s attendance, behaviour and progress in school...”
the local School Board developed an attendance policy in the spring of 1997, supporting the Academic Achievement Task Force report, and recommending that students attend classes daily
the School District Code of Conduct states that “each school, in consultation with parents, students and staff, will develop a school code of student conduct that will establish clear standards based on district expectations and mandate specific consequences for students in violation of the school’s code of student conduct”
The SD Code of Conduct also goes on to say that “students will participate to the best of their ability in their school’s program by ... attending school on a daily basis”
Part of the issue is that we are a new entity; in September we amalgamated three schools – a large dual track French Immersion and English program, a small rural school, and a middle school – into one building of 700 students. It is becoming increasingly clear that we need to formalise our code of conduct to address the attendance issue.
The bottom line for me is that every student should be learning whether they are in a “bricks and mortar” school or not. My quandary is how best to persoanlise the experience when they miss substantial days of school. I think our school can do a better job of addressing this concern.
I would like to know how other schools and districts approach this issue. In particular:
what sort of system does your school use? Is there a cut off after a set number of days?
does your school use a graduated system of interventions? (ie: first step = teacher phones home, second step = admin sends letter home)