Rant & Rave

Tuesday, March 30, 1999

Grade policy

By Laurynn Paet


School attendance is an important part of one's life, so is it right to punish a student for poor attendance by taking away a letter grade and credit that he or she has earned?

The attendance policy states that "if a student misses 12 or more class periods of a course during any one semester, the student will receive an 'F' for that semester." For a yearlong course, a student who misses 24 class periods will receive an "F" for the course. In addition, three tardies in a class are equal to one day's absence.

The policy also states that all absences are considered to be unexcused unless a written verification is received within two class periods. Whether an absence is excused or not, it still counts toward the 12 absences.

Does a policy like this encourage teens to stay in school or does it discourage them?

Last year, I experienced the effect of the policy. During the first semester, I exceeded the 12-absence limit for my sixth-period class. I had done well in the class, holding an "A" for the semester. Yes, I had cut out on some of the days, but other absences were due to illness and personal problems. The year was proving to be a difficult and emotional one for me.

In spite of my problems, I kept up with my work and performed well, only to be informed at the end of the semester that I would receive an "F" because of attendance.

When I attempted to make an appeal, I was denied. I was told that in order for my appeal to be granted, I would need to have a doctor's note or an "acceptable" excuse such as a death in the family. My personal problems were not issues I could discuss. This was not "acceptable" and I had no choice but to take the failing grade.

During the second semester, I watched my attendance more carefully, but not carefully enough. A month before the end of the school year, my mother and I started thinking about moving and looking at different houses. We found one we liked and were notified that we were to move in immediately. There was so much to be done and so little time.

The last few weeks of school were difficult and stressful. With the commotion of having to find transportation from the new house, I was late to school a majority of the time. One day, in the last week of school, I hurried to my first period class and was told by the teacher that I had reached my 12th absence and she was going to have to fail me for the semester.

The fact that I had been awake the night before completing a class project did not help the situation. I had been earning "A"s throughout the year in that class, only to receive an "F" in the end. This time I didn't bother to appeal, knowing that I didn't have an "acceptable" excuse.

I was outraged and discouraged, so discouraged that I did not attend school the remaining days. I was fortunate not to fail my other courses due to my absence that week.

Statistics show there were 415 policy violations in the first semester, and 659 in the second. The policy was meant to keep teens in school, but there were even more violations the second semester. Is the policy productive or destructive?

In the 1994-95 school year, students missed an average of 6.1 days a year. In 1997-98, when the policy went into effect, the average number of days missed increased to 13.3.

I feel that the attendance policy has negative, rather than positive effects on students. Students are discouraged when they have worked hard for a grade and, in spite of that, know they will receive an "F." Certainly, there must be a more effective, and fair, punishment.

Laurynn Paet is a senior at Kaiser High School

Rant & Rave is a Tuesday Star-Bulletin feature
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