One of three Richmond Public Schools students would have had a lower Grade Point Average if school officials had enforced an absenteeism penalty established in 2012, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Punishing the students, said school officials, would put the graduations status for some at risk.
The policy mandates that students with more than six unexcused absences per nine weeks, or 10 per semester, would not get credit for the class. Enforcement of the policy this year would have impacted 1,300 students, including more than 400 seniors.
The School Board voted 6 to 2 to suspend the policy. School officials will review the policy for possible updates and implementation by the next school year.
“These are students who have the grades,” said Linda Owen of the 9th District. “What we’re saying is because they have the six unexcused absences, they don’t get the credit. These are not kids that did not show up at all. … I just don’t see how we can legitimately say to the kids who have the grades to earn the credit that because you have — now — unexcused absences, we’re going to take the credit away.”
“Oftentimes there are situations in our homes that we are not aware of,” said Cheryl Burke of the 7th district. “Of all the procedures that we could use to hold children accountable for coming to school, to take away their grades, I don’t get it. … I hope we can revisit this policy. I think it’s punitive and it’s not in the business of helping students, especially thinking of the population we serve. Some of our children are taking care of their siblings. Some of our children are taking care of their parents. Some of our children have issues beyond the schools piece. To take away somebody’s grades, that’s like taking away their income. That’s terrible.”
At least one school board member saw value in keeping the sanctions. “Richmond Public Schools has systemic accountability problems beginning with a complete disregard for the basics,” said Jonathan Young, of the 4th district. “The disgrace relevant to our attendance deficiencies is only the tip of an iceberg that includes chronic problems including students that wander the halls all day disrupting classes, initiating fights and creating hardships for all of the students trying to do the right thing.”
Bacon’s bottom line: Is the Richmond school system willing to uphold any standards at all? What is more fundamental than attending class? I suppose doing the homework would help — but who knows what the homework policies are? Or passing the tests — but who knows how rigorous the tests are? As an outsider, watching the school board collapse like a Florida university pedestrian bridge, I have no confidence whatsoever in the value of a Richmond high school degree.
I’m sure there are legitimate hard cases in which children do miss multiple classes due to pressing family considerations. But how many are those? What we do know is that truancy and discipline issues are endemic in Richmond high schools. The school board vote strikes me as a flight from accountability — indeed a flight from reality. Enforcing attendance requirements would expose the charade of lax standards, social promotions, and the fraud that has been the increase in high school graduation rates.There are currently no comments highlighted.