Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Take your "perfect" attendance policy and shove it...

I guess this is a bit of rant post.... but I'm more trying to point out how many school attendance awards (including the Perry schools on MCAS Iwakuni) are rewarding the wrong thing.

I agree that research shows that the more a child attends school, the better grades he or she gets. This makes sense, of course. The more you show up and are engaged in what's going on, the faster you will learn. I agree with and support this argument.

But then there is this illusive Perfect Attendance Award. This is given out to students who never miss a day of school in a given quarter or semester. NOT ONE DAY. My kids have each won this award once, and during the same semester, which was Fall 2013. They were never absent and never late. Here is the proof, so to speak:

At the time, I blogged that this was especially notable because my kids are responsible for getting themselves up and out the door on time each morning. They set their own alarms, make their own lunches, dress themselves and manage to get to school on time while the spouse is at work and I am still snoozing away (I work late at night, so let's not discuss how lazy I am, thank you. I have merely created the life I want.) So, they truly earned these attendance awards themselves, and I made a big deal out of it for them. They deserved it.

And there are a lot of deserving Perfect Attendance Award recipients. Please do not think this is putting down those children who have earned their awards. It is not. They worked hard for them, like my kids did. Or their parents worked hard for them, like I did not, but either way, somebody worked really hard for them.

However, these recipients were also very lucky. They did not have any medical emergencies, surgeries, illnesses, trips to see dying family members back in the States or other issues that may have made them tardy or absent to school. They didn't have one of those rare, hard-to-get, desperately needed orthodontist or dermatology appointments (these specialists only come to Iwakuni once a quarter). They managed to escape the random virus, which base residents "lovingly" call the Kuni Krud, that tours the base (and especially the elementary school) each year. Or... maybe they didn't escape, they just took it to school with them... but I will discuss that in a moment.

There is also the optional removing the kids from traditional school to go see the world. This is unique to students overseas, of course, but a valid argument, in my opinion. The spouse and I waited until the spring semester to pull our kids out of school to go to Okinawa to see scientific and cultural sites there (as I am sure we can all agree, a lot of learning does not occur in a classroom). Sure, we could have done it during school holidays, but EVERYONE tries to Space A during the holidays so our chances of making it on a free plane ride at those times were next to nil. A random Wednesday in February? No problem! It was even on a leather-clad leer jet. Sa-weet! But no, I don't think these trips should be considered "excused," but these are planned and parents know the consequences of such excursions.

But, some things cannot be planned or prevented. Unfortunately, my boys were not so lucky this school year. Will ended up getting a mole on his head that went crazy and had to be removed... twice. he had to miss school for one of the surgeries. Both kids, as well as my husband, became statistics in the Japanese influenza epidemic of January 2015 (I have yet to succumb, but I'm just waiting). We kept them home 1) because they didn't feel good and 2) they had fevers and would infect other children. They still made up the work they missed and made great grades for the semester.

Now... there are a lot, A LOT of parents who send their kids to school sick because they don't have childcare or they just don't want to have to deal with their feverish, whiny kid. I will admit that I have given my kid Tylenol and sent him to school. I was out of sick days and needed to work a certain amount of hours each week to pay the bills. So I am not judging these parents.... much. You shouldn't do it but until someone makes child care options easy and affordable for working parents, I can see how it happens. Still, bottom line, you shouldn't do it.

Then there are other parents who have put so much emphasis on Perfect Attendance that their child fakes being well and goes to school sick so they can get the designation of being ... perfect. And then that child goes and gets 20 percent of their classmates sick... who then go home and get their siblings sick... then the siblings go back to their classrooms ... and then get 20 percent of their classmates sick... and so on. It's a vicious virus cycle.

And the schools perpetuate this ridiculous cycle. They make a HUGE deal out of Perfect Attendance. Perfect Attendance does not include excused absences for illness or surgery where the work is made up. It only counts if you show up each and every day and stay in school every day... no doctor's appointments, nothing. The administration and teachers congratulate the Perfect Attendance kids with a huge round of applause at the awards assembly each quarter. They congratulate the Perfect Attendance parents for being exemplary specimens of parenthood with a huge round of applause each quarter. Meanwhile, I'm sitting there, knowing exactly which parents sent their "perfect" children to school sick. I want to stand up and throw tomatoes at the podium and tell the leading applauders that some of the parents they are applauding are far from exemplary specimens of parenthood. But another life lesson not usually learned in a classroom is that perception is reality and my throwing tomatoes will just make me look like the crappy parent. So, I refrain. I also didn't plan ahead and hide tomatoes in my purse.

Yes... I am complaining... however, when I complain, I like to provide a solution. It may not be a viable solution because I do not have all of the facts as to what goes in to a school Perfect Attendance Policy. But, I am a reasonably intelligent individual who wants to applaud the parents who keep their sick children at home so that maybe the next flu epidemic is stymied.

How about replacing the Perfect Attendance Award with the Excellent Attendance Award? An award where students who are never tardy and never have an unexcused absence are recognized? Where they are allowed three excused sick days a semester. Where parents who are responsible and keep their contagious kids at home are applauded. And maybe fewer kids at the school will get sick and miss school in the long run. So, require a doctor's note, a picture of the sick kid, or some other proof, whatever. But if your kid makes up the work he or she missed, gets three or less excused sick days a semester, then they get an Excellent Attendance Award. That way they can have mole surgery and get the Kuni Krud and still be proud of their efforts to be at school on time.

So, that's my rant.. and my solution. Spread the word, support the cause... vote for the Excellent Attendance Award.


Rebecca said...

Yep, that sums up how I felt today in the assembly! And I don't care, but my girly was very upset because she HAD been in school every day but had a single doctors appointment, and that nixed it for her. Thanks for voicing it so I don't feel alone in my anger!

Jessica Guthrie said...

You're very welcome. Obviously, this annoys me... a lot. And if the administrators are trying to show good examples of parenting to the other parents there, they are preaching to the choir. The parents of the kids getting academic awards aren't the ones who need to be shown good examples,