General Question

skwerl88's avatar

Can schools grade students based upon attendance?

Asked by skwerl88 (532points) February 5th, 2009

My school has a policy where they dock “professional points” from a student whenever they are absent. Recently, I was sick for a relatively long period of time, approximately two and a half months, and now I find myself near failing. I have provided the school medical records proving thus, however, have been unable to recoup the points as of yet. Are schools allowed to do this?

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41 Answers

tocutetolive90's avatar

Most school i know do this, unless u have a doctors notes\ records showing you where out for medical reasons. Its unfair, but it looks like they are allowed to do this

La_chica_gomela's avatar

It seems unfair, but on the other hand, a student who misses 2 months of classes has not learned the same amount as a student who was there did.

It sounds like you need an advocate, a parent or guardian who will go down to the principal’s office and demand your rights. I’ve found that adults have much more power with school administrators than actual students (who are the whole reason the school exists) – go figure.

dlm812's avatar

Are you talking about a university/college or grade/middle/high school? Certain professors at my University certainly knock off points from the final grade for professionalism – which includes “attendance at meetings” (I’m a business student). Even job/internship interviews and funerals are not acceptable by most professor’s standards But of course it’s okay for them to miss for something rediculous like a vacation or meeting off campus. In my state (Indiana) public grade/middle/high schools penalize you for attendance, but not individually as your question seems to ask. At my old school corporation, all students who had perfect attendance would enter a raffle for a free brand new car. Other attendance policy was that you were allowed 3 absences for school-related activities, etc. but after that they added up for detentions and Thursday schools.

Allie's avatar

It sucks, but as far as I know it’s allowed. Personally, I don’t see a problem with it as long as you make up any work (or do any alternative assignments they give you) and pass the exams. If you can’t do that then I guess the two months away took a bigger toll than you were expecting.

arnbev959's avatar

If it’s a public school a parent should be able to make a big enough fuss for them to do what you want them too, especially with such a legitimate excuse as illness.

cdwccrn's avatar

@dim: what Indiana township gives away free new cars??

cookieman's avatar

All that matters in this situation is what’s written in the student handbook.

Whatever the attendance policy is, however that ties into grades should be made clear in the student handbook.

If it is, and you signed indicating that you read and received it – then you’re on the hook for it.

Check your handbook.

DrBill's avatar

I have taught at several colleges and universities, and they all had a policy to deduct for absents. You can’t learn if your not there. Notes help, but it is not the same.

I would not hold excused absents against a student but you could tell when it came to test day.

I also had extra credit questions, you would only know if you were there

amanderveen's avatar

I think it’s ridiculous to fail a student strictly for missing classes, particularly if the student was out for valid (and confirmed) medical reasons. If the student is to be failed, it should be for not knowing the material. The schools I went to were allowed to dock marks based on attendance, to a point. I never encountered a class that docked more than 5% for attendance points. This penalty was intended to encourage students to attend all classes, the premise being that attendance promotes better marks.

I’ve had a couple of friends who missed months worth of school at some point during high school. Each of them worked on school assignments when they were well enough and studied the material outside of school. When their illness didn’t prevent it, they still turned in their assignments for grading. When their illness did prevent it, arrangements were made with the school for alternate grading (eg. increasing the weight of their final exams).

I can understand being flunked out of business classes for lack of professionalism because you’re playing hooky (in business class, you have to prove you can perform in a business-like manner), but sometimes things happen that are unavoidable. Even employers are aware of this. It’s also the reason why short and long term disability insurance exists.

I don’t know what the laws are like where you live, but as far as I know, you aren’t allowed to be flunked strictly on attendance where I live.

DrBill's avatar

P.S. I never failed anyone for being absent, but I have given a grade of “I” (incomplete).

They then could make up the missed work the next semester.

galileogirl's avatar

Officially in our district you can’t fail a student just because of absences, however if the student does not do the work because they are absent, that is a valid reason for failure.

I would think at the university level a student should not expect to pass a class if they missed a significant part of the term. In the case of a legitimate illness (2 1/2 mos ill would require medical documentation) the school should credit the tuition and allow the student to return in the next term. After all this would be a very rare circumstance.

In any public school system that I have ever heard of there would be a visiting teacher for hospital/homebound students. The federal law actually requires that students with disabilities receive an education in the appropriate environment.

I run the online education program in our school and I was approached by a parent whose child was going to receive a bone marrow transplant and would not be able to come to school for months. Like a lot of parents she thought she was on her own to get her child educated. I sent her straight to the counselor to set up a visiting teacher or to have the district pay for online classes, which can cost up to $300 each. If the student is too ill for even that kind of work, the student has the right to attend public school past the age of 18, usually to the June after their 20th birthday.

TitsMcGhee's avatar

My school is very strict about absences because our semesters are short and we only have class once a week, so one absence is a significant portion of time. It can eventually effect your grade, but usually teachers consider excuses like medical reasons and religious holidays.

dlm812's avatar

@cdwccrn Monroe County… it only recently started three years ago (the year after I graduated of course. Last year they gave away a Pontiac G5. A LOT of students are in the raffle though because attendance (even before the car giveaway) is a big deal in that system.

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

I had essentially the exact same argument with my AP literature teacher this afternoon. The AP test is coming up in May and, because she’s not the best of teachers, we are entirely unprepared. She decided that to rectify this situation we would have mandatory extra sessions on Saturdays and not only would you have points deducted for not being there, but those who showed up to 5 consecutive ones would receive 25 extra points. I am a religious Jew and therefore cannot go on Saturdays which I explained to her and her response was basically “Oh well. I’ll give you the material we do and you can do it on your own, but you will not receive credit if you’re not there.”

It isn’t fair at all to deduct credit for being sick (or religious). Take into account what @cprevite said, and if there’s no clear policy in your handbook about excused absences, fight it ‘til you get the credit back.

Good luck, I’m on your side.

amanderveen's avatar

@omfgTALIjustIMDu – In Canada, it is actually illegal for your teacher to penalize you like that when you can’t show up for religious reasons. It would be religious discrimination and would violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

@amanderveen, I attempted explaining about religious discrimination and whatnot but she didn’t really seem like she was listening. But she doesn’t know what she got herself into, since my mom is an alderwoman with a stick up her ass sideways and will fight it to the death. I almost feel bad for her.

amanderveen's avatar

@omfgTALIjustIMDu – Whereabouts are you from?

amanderveen's avatar

Not sure what laws (if any) apply to cases like yours in CT, but hopefully your mom can work out an arrangement with your teacher since she won’t listen to you.

Darwin's avatar

In our district students who are absent for an extended time are eligible for a visiting teacher. Also, most of our hospitals have a district teacher on staff who handles education for the inpatients and also for outpatients who have to be at the hospital daily for treatments.

However, students who miss a great deal of school due to illness, rather than getting failing grades, are simply not advanced to the next grade. If they do advance because they got some of the work done, they are assigned to a resource teacher who will help them get caught up.

Jack79's avatar

The schools I attended as well as the ones I taught have had a “minimum attendance” policy. That means that you’re allowed to be absent a certain amount of times, after which you simply fail. If you have been sick, then obviously that is taken into consideration, but you still have a maximum amount of “sick days”. Typically this was 3 times higher than the normal absence maximum.

What I do (and I am sure most teachers do, at least subconsciously) is take attendance into consideration when marking. Part of the mark is based on tests and homework, but part is based on class performance, and I include attendance (as well as class behaviour) into the performance mark.

amanderveen's avatar

How would that fit in with home schooling? Obviously, home schooled students don’t have to attend a formal classroom, but they still have to pass some sort of standardized testing to officially “graduate”, don’t they? If they are able to do that, then wouldn’t it be possible for a student who was absent for a lengthy period of time, but who has kept up their studies, to still progress to the next grade?

galileogirl's avatar

@omfgTALIjustIMDu That’s telling her. “if you don’t cater to me, I’m gonna sic my mom on you…” Does an alderwoman have any pull over a tenured teacher? Wouldn’t it be an abuse of power if your mom tried to use political pressure for your benefit?

As an AP teacher, I can tell you there is more material to be covered than can possibly be done in the time allotted. The teachers often put 5–10 extra hours every week on AP classes and no matter when those hours are scheduled, somebody is going to be unhappy. At lunchtime, after school, Saturday or Sunday students always can find reasons they can’t do tutorials. The need to put in extra hours should have been taken into account before you sign up for AP classes. The teacher offers points because students won’t come without a bribe even though attendance is in their own best interest. So if you can’t attend the extra sessions, study on your own and decide what’s most importat to you-the class grade or passing the exam. You might propose this to your teacher. In our school if you score a 5 the teacher will guarantee an A.

Another thing that hasn’t been addressed regarding absenteeism is funding. If students have unexcused absences the school is docked for those days. A 10% cut rate means 10% less funding which usually means understaffing, larger class sizes, less resources and more work for teachers who are supposed to devise and grade make-up assignments.

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

@galileogirl, How Is it abusing political power to fight religious discrimination? It is not for my personal benefit, it is to correct the ideology that it’s ok to dock points for not being able to go extra sessions because I am a religious Jew.

I have taken several AP courses and I am well aware that they require extra time outside of normal classtime. Every other AP teacher has helped to work around my religiousness and consequential schedule restraints.

Another issue is that with the excessively large amount of work we do at home, we should easily be able to cover everything during normal classtime and the only reason we can’t is because she spends all class every class complaining about how behind we are and not actually covering any material in an attempt to catch up.

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

Sorry, I got cut off by a fire alarm.

I am not at all worried about doing well on the AP test (for several reasons), however, I am worried about doing well in the class.

wundayatta's avatar

Is attendance correlated with educational attainment? Probably. Does attendance correlate exactly with educational attainment? Nope.

Since it doesn’t, it shouldn’t be used as a proxy measure for educational attainment. However, it is a lot easier for people who have to do the grading if they can eliminate a few people from the grading process simply because they weren’t around.

People hate assessing others truely, because that takes a lot of work. That’s why things like tests and attendance are used as estimates of educational attainment.

My kids go to a school where there are no grades. Attendance doesn’t matter to them, although it does matter to the public high schools many of them go to afterwards. Figures. Public school systems! They should leave assessment up to the teachers, I think. They shouldn’t impose stupid rules on the people who know the kids the best.

galileogirl's avatar

@omfgTALIjustIMDu :“But she doesn’t know what she got herself into, since my mom is an alderwoman with a stick up her ass sideways and will fight it to the death. I almost feel bad for her.”

You may be too young to realize that the use of political power for personal benefit is unethical. If the extra class time is on a Sunday it will conflict with some Christian students, after school may not be feasible for a number of reasons.

Before you get all judgmental about the teacher, Skippy, remember extra hours and extra work doesn’t translate into extra compensation for the teacher. She is probably taking this on because nobody else will. When you finally grow up and realize you are no more entitled than anybody else, I am sure you will work extra hours for free just because someone will benefit from your education and skills, right?

cookieman's avatar

@omfgTALIjustIMDu Sorry to say it, but @galileogirl is right on target here.

Your initial comment (quoted above) just screams immaturity and entitlement.

Mommy won’t always be there to fight your battles. Probably best you talk to the teacher and try to appreciate her position. Maybe then she’ll appreciate yours.

singasong's avatar

I have heard a lot about schools cracking down on people like this for being absent. For some reason, less and less people are being forgiving, regardless of what our reasons are. I have even heard of some students getting an actual FINE to pay if they miss too many days. Im glad they didnt do this when I was in high school because I was absent once a week ): I hated it! I would have ended up dropping out! Which is why I disagree with this kind of punishment >_> In college it gets a little better though, because than attendance is up to the teacher. In some classes, they dont even take attendance, BUT if you miss an important day of lecture and notes, you’ll wind up falling waaay behind.

amanderveen's avatar

It is true that scheduling the additional classes on another day/at another time might just as easily conflict with someone else’s schedule. That isn’t really the point. The point is that the student should not be penalized strictly on attendance when the student cannot attend for religious or health reasons, especially when that requirement was implemented well after the student had signed up for the class. If someone cannot attend on certain days or at certain times for religious reasons, they generally don’t sign up for that class. Now it’s okay to be penalized because the teacher has decided to change the schedule and requires every student to accommodate the change? That goes beyond the issue of just being marked for attendance.

Isn’t the whole point of even having schools to teach students? Why on earth are we losing sight of whether or not the student is learning? I agree that attendance greatly increases a student’s success rate (in most cases), but why should attendance outweigh achievement? I would be just as irate if a student was being passed only because they had perfect attendance, even though they hadn’t learned any of the material.

arnbev959's avatar

“But she doesn’t know what she got herself into, since my mom is an alderwoman with a stick up her ass sideways and will fight it to the death. I almost feel bad for her.”

I read this as saying: ‘My mom, as any concerned parent would, is going to complain about this, and as an alderwoman, she knows what she’s talking about, and she won’t give up.’

A schedule requiring students to show up on a weekend is wrong, if it wasn’t stated at the beginning of the course that such extra meetings would be mandatory. Optional Saturday classes are great, but if not attending leads to a diminished grade for that class, it isn’t fair to students who have other obligations, or who would rather spend their Saturdays doing something else. (There is far more to life than the AP exam.)
It wouldn’t be so hard to assign a little extra homework for students to complete when they can. That would be expected from an AP class.

My AP lit class doesn’t spend much time on material directly related to the AP exam, but I have no doubt that just about everyone in my class will do fine. As a group we did very well on the AP exam last year, and it’s basically the same class this year. Students can score well on the exam with only a few practice tests, and some independent studying. Class time is more than enough to prepare students for the test, and if a teacher needs more time than that it seems clear enough to me that the teacher isn’t making full use of that class time.

amanderveen's avatar

AP classes do indeed require a lot of work, and I did miss a few classes when I was taking AP Lit. My teacher did not waste her time and energy harping on us to attend. For one thing, it would have been a waste of her time and ours to do so. It was our own responsibility to learn the material and to prep for the exam. Our teacher was there to guide us in our studies, to encourage intelligent debate, and to give us constructive criticism. She didn’t harp on attendance, but we also got no sympathy if we fell behind just because we were playing hooky. For the record, I did get a 5 on my AP Lit exam.

In university, I only attended about a third of my macroeconomics course because I found I was learning more studying the textbook than from the class. The teacher spent most of the class berating her students. Besides that, I found classes frustrating because our teacher would frequently contradict herself (I think she mixed up terms and definitions because she was thinking ahead of what she was saying). When students would ask questions, she never actually answered the question that was asked, so students stopped asking questions after a few weeks. Studying at home and just coming in for tests, I managed to get one of the few A’s in that class. Attendance isn’t always everything.

Sorry about the soapbox. The idea of using grades to rate anything other than a student’s competence in a subject just seems to go against the whole purpose of grading and it gets my goat.

galileogirl's avatar

@petethepothead Then why mention Mom is an alderperson if it has nothing to do with the subject. Would someone say his mom the barrista is going to make things tough for the teacher.

In fact the 4 1/2 hours/wk set aside for 36 weeks might be enough time for about 20% of the class, but take away 5 weeks that fall after the exam, the week for standardized tests in April, the week we just lost to the exit exams, Fall semester finals week in January, field trips, assemblies, a couple of weeks review and time gets pretty tight. Also since it is the policy in many schools that anyone can take an AP class, we find we have to teach a wide range of students.

By the way if the teacher is so lame, why even take the class? Why not take the AP class online or study on your own, that would seem a more efficient use of time. After all you don’t have to take the class in order to take the test.

@amanderveen A very major difference between high school and college is the money. You (or someone) has paid the cost for the class and if you do better by studying on your own then good for you at least the class expenses have been covered. When a 16 yo decides tha s/he would rathe sleep in or hang out with friends or even spend the time studying on his/her own (LOL) money is withheld from the school. And when the HS student fails the class because s/he did not learn on his/her own we have to use already limited funds to provide summer or night school classes to give the students a second or even a third chance.

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

@galileogirl, Pete already explained why the fact that she is an alderwoman is pertinent—she has lots of contact with the school system and knows way more things about it than most other people (i.e. policy, administration, etc.).

Take what @amanderveen said about her college class into account. We should be perfectly capable of covering the material for the AP test in the class time given to us during school, but at this point we can’t because she’s spent the majority of class time thus far sniveling at how we’re not getting anywhere.

In my school you do have to take the class in order to take the test. If we didn’t I’d have dropped the class after one day of seeing how bad the teacher is (and quite possibly would do better because I wouldn’t be wasting so much time reading books we never follow up on and writing papers that come back with a grade on top and no constructive criticism whatsoever).

—And excuse me, but before you go off berating me for being young and therefore immature and spending my time sleeping in or hanging out with friends, I think you should ask me about what I do in my “free time (LOL).” —

Oh, and reread what @petethepothead said, because he was right on target.

galileogirl's avatar

Before you take the English AP test, work on your reading comprehension. I was referring to students who cut class and the financial losses they cause. This thread isn’t ALL about you!

amanderveen's avatar

@galileogirl – I have no issue with failing a student who is simply playing hooky (i.e. sleeping, hanging out with friends, etc.) and doesn’t learn the material. What I have an issue with is failing or severely penalizing students strictly for attendance issues, regardless of whether or not they have learned the requisite material.

If your school is having so much money cut from classes because students aren’t showing up, maybe the school district or state should be looking at more appropriate ways to actually address the attendance issue rather than undercutting needed funding. I honestly think that cutting funding is far more likely to exacerbate the conditions that encourage truancy than to mollify them. Students who have severe enough truancy issues to severely affect school funding are not likely to care about the school’s funding, either, and so cutting funding does not act as an effective deterrent for them anyhow.

I have no idea what the ideal solution for improving attendance is, especially since each school has its unique issues, but penalizing the school by removing funding hardly seems like a productive solution. Perhaps students who have failed and have excessive unexcused absences should have to wait to repeat the class during the following regular school year or else pay to attend evening or summer classes.

Failing and/or penalizing students for attendance issues even if they can prove that they have learned the material is only letting politics interfere egregiously. If the student is basically being failed because of school funding issues, that’s politics.

galileogirl's avatar

The number of chronic truants who can actually pass a class is so miniscule as to be in the range of miraculous. So what you are advocating for is probably 1 in 1,000 cases. Even then they will not develop the understanding necessary to do well in class. Part of learning about history (my subject) is discussion and hearing others’ ideas. In 18 years I have had 2 students who were chronic truants pass my class. Both showed up and took the tests and turned in the projects posted on my website. However they both received D’s because they were unprepared for essay questions and did not do in-class assignments. There is more to education than being able to memorize enough of the text to pass tests.

Now what about the other 99.9% of the cutters who decide that they don’t need to know about algebra, biology or economics. When asked why they don’t come to class, they invariably say the subject is boring. Of course the reality is if you only show up once every 2–3 weeks, you are lost, not bored.

It is interesting to note the correlation between good grades and good attendance. That pretty much can’t be argued with statistically so the only thing you have left is anecdotes or unsupported conjecture.

amanderveen's avatar

I am not arguing that the majority of chronic truants are going to fail because they haven’t learned the material. I also agree that attendance generally has a strong positive correlation with grades. Students who show up for class are much more likely to pass because they are more likely to learn the necessary material. Students who do not show up for class are much more likely not to learn the material. I still don’t believe, however, that students who are truant (particularly for valid reasons), but who can demonstrate that they have learned the material, should be penalized for attendance issues.

I am not purporting that the majority of truants do learn the material; in fact, I believe the opposite. That is why I haven’t bothered trying to locate statistics inferring that truants are unfairly penalized, nor have I thrown about anecdotal numbers that sound like statistics to support that argument. My argument is that truants should be failed for not knowing the material, not for truancy. I am not advocating for the “probably 1 in 1,000 cases” where truants do learn the material. I am advocating for getting back to the heart of what teaching is supposed to be about – education. I am advocating for not penalizing students only for attendance issues if they actually are learning.

To me, it sounds like we are letting politics interfere far too much in the education system if students who are in fact learning can be failed because the school is losing money on that student.

galileogirl's avatar

If it’s a valid reason, they are by definition not truant, they have excused absences. I never said they are failed because of money, I said you have to think of the negative consequences of their behavior. Truancy should not be dismissed because it only affects the student and s/he has to live with it. As a society we have decided children cannot make that decision because in the long run we all bear the consequences.

gooch's avatar

Yes many call it participation points

lauramacleod1's avatar

9th grade child is absent 1 day. I send note to school and it becomes an excused absense. 1 teacher subtracts 10 points off 100% of childs grade for “excused absense”. Do you think this is appropriate? This is this teachers rules. PS: He forbids the use of hand sanitizers in the class room.

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