This year MCPS instituted a new attendance policy to limit excessive absences. If students have five absences, excused or unexcused, they will be at risk for credit loss. According to MCPS Regulation: Student Attendance, the purpose of the new policy is to apply the new approach to MCPS schools to enhance students’ educational experiences. The policy aims to ensure students are coming to school and schools are giving them reasons to stay. The policy changes include monitoring students and recording absences more diligently.
The Board of Education felt this was necessary because in the 2017-2018 school year, 40% of MCPS students missed 18 or more school days, making them chronically absent. Despite this, those students still passed and earned credit for their classes. Now MCPS notifies parents that their child is in danger of receiving a failing grade if they have five unexcused absences. If they continue to be absent, then they will receive an E3 on their report card indicating attendance failure and the possibility of losing credit. The new policy doesn’t not only affects students, it impacts the county’s overall grade for it’s schools.
Principal Bob Sinclair clarifies, “Maryland has gone back to doing [an attendance] report card for every school… [If you’re consistently present,] that doesn’t necessarily impact you as a student, but [overall absences] impact our rating as a school.”
Mr. Sinclair hires staff members he feels would be an important asset to the team—including ones that can work well with students as well as other staff members to support students and boost their attendance levels.“[We need to] celebrate when kids are here. If students are absent for a day or two, [we want them to] send a postcard or make a phone call so kids know that we notice [their absences].”
He continues, “We’ve been having a lot of discussions with the staff around how we build better relationships [with students]. How do we let kids know that it’s important to be in class? That when you’re not here we do miss you?” He works with the staff on how to help absent students with work they missed so they can obtain necessary course material and recover credit.
Mr. Sinclair understands the debate over these stricter attendance policies. “[I understand students feel that if they] can stay home two days a week and still get an ‘A’… why come in?… And we know from our kids [that attendance issues] run the gambit: kids are just too tired, kids get sick, [there are] kids who actually have work and family care responsibilities…” However, Mr. Sinclair believes that students would be more motivated to find ways to attend school or participate in credit recovery if lessons were made to be so engaging and in-depth that missing any class would seriously impact the student’s comprehension of course material. Building lessons to be more essential will make students think twice about missing school, he believes.
What can Blake do to aid students with attendance? The school can request outside agencies to come in and sit down with the student to overcome attendance problems. “The goal really is to get kids here and … figure out what’s wrong and how we can get them in here.”
Whether or not implementing this procedure has been successful is up for debate. “We get an email every day of all the kids who missed class 3-5 times [and] that hasn’t grown as quickly as last year. So there still is some shift, but it [remains] a pretty large list.”