You will have to determine how you feel about the concept I am writing about. I am using a large reference for this topic. The material discusses the importance of school attendance. However, the true point of the article is how public schools have begun to collect data and keep track of attendance versus absenteeism.
While I was a student in the 1950’s and the 1960’s attendance was tracked simply as “present” or “absent”. All absences were considered unexcused unless a note was brought from the parent indicating the child was home ill or at the doctor or some other mutually understood acceptable reason. That absence was noted in the teacher’s book and turned in to the office where a general record was kept. It was up to the home to keep track of when and why the child was home. The school’s business was to teach. If a child had an attendance problem the issue was brought up specifically with that family. As I said there were two variations on the same theme, you were either there or you weren’t.
Today it is just as important if not more so for the child to be in attendance because they have so much more to learn and society is that much more intricate. However, I offer to you information regarding today’s typical public school’s operation keeping track of students in school or out.
Today if a student is in school they may be classified as “present in school under regular instructional program;” they may be classified “present- non traditional school setting, regular instructional program;” they may be “present -disciplinary action, receiving instruction;” or they may be “present out of school regular instruction program activity.” This should give you the idea. Today’s student might be absent because of religious obligations. They may be absent due to illness or family emergency, legal or judicial requirements. A student may be working or transportation may not be available to get to school or the student is simply skipping school. The situation may be unknown. In other words the student is gone and we do not know under which category.
Today’s school systems challenge is “overlapping or non-exhaustive taxonimies.” What does that mean? It means the school system feels they have failed if they do not categorize where a student is every second of the school day. Is that where we really want our money to go?
Many students today want to learn. They want to be allowed to learn but the illustration in our reference material is given where 10 students in a district, not a class, were considered hardcore truants. They were counseled and at least modestly returned to class. What was the result that was crowed about? Was it that they had more opportunity to learn? Was it because kids who were truant were now in school being taught? No. The response as to the positive nature of these ten students being back in classroom was that $350,000 was returned to the school district because now they had these ten students coming to class as opposed to being absent so they could again ask for government money to teach them.
As I said at the outset of this article I can not speak for you as to this situation, but all the situations in our country whether you agree or disagree it most specifically details the way that our educational system works.
I believe as an Education Writer I owe it to readers to advise them about current education techniques at home and school but also I think it is important to show them about current educational system processes so that they are made aware of “school system thinking.”
Questions I have from this information include “Where is the current focus?” “How much money is being spent on “intricate tracking” and what is the result in terms of education results?”
You are welcome to construct your own questions; I have just presented something to consider in your thinking.
“Every School Day Counts,” Booklet, “The Forum Guide to Collecting and Using Attendance Data,” National Forum on Education Data, February 2009