Attendance Team Tackles Absences


By Samantha Locke and Elissa Asch

Assistant Principal Wendy Stratton and  a group of teachers assembled on February 26 to discuss the issue of recurring absences at Tam. “[We] established the attendance passes…the design and the funding,” Stratton said.

Throughout this meeting the attendance team, which has been gathering since November, celebrated the success of the new passes, though opinions seem to be mixed. “I don’t use [bathroom passes] at all and I feel like students are mature enough and responsible enough to be able to go to the bathroom when they have to, without carrying a pass,” English teacher David Tarpinian said.

Junior Adia Folsom agreed. “[Bathroom passes do] not account for things that happen in everyday life…it is almost insulting,” she said. However some students didn’t find that the passes had a negative impact, “They’re really not a big deal,” freshman Imron Khaliq-Buporia said.

However some teachers do value the use of these passes. “I think that bathroom passes are useful because it’s helpful for teachers to know who’s in and out of class,” science teacher Laura Valentine said.

This meeting also focused on the issue of decreased attendance, rather than bathroom passes. “Certainly our attendance rate needs to improve, in my view, our attendance rate is horrible here,” counselor Sarah Gordon said.

The data collected by Stratton seems to support Gordon’s statement. Out of 1392 absences (in the period of a month from January 19 to February 12) a mere five percent of students were unexcused while the remaining ninety-five percent of students who were absent were excused, signed out either by themselves or by a parent. “It’s really hard when students excuse their own absences when they are eighteen. It’s legal, but not very ethical, and places a burden on both teachers and the other students,” social studies teacher Sharilyn Scharf said.

Seniors aren’t the only grade level with a high absentee rate. Sophomores are a close second, followed by freshmen, and lastly juniors, who have the lowest number of absences proportional to the number of students in their grade in the period of time recorded.

“Maybe [students] are sick or maybe [they] are ditching, we don’t know,” Stratton said.

Attendance impacts the Tam community and especially teachers. “I have certain kids who are consistently not showing up for assessments,” science teacher Alyssa Sandner said. “We need to have a different conversation about what [they] need, instead of [their] mom just signing [them] out and not knowing [they] had a test.”

Stratton also suggested that some parents did know about the tests their kids were missing and excused the kids anyway. “It makes it really challenging to address this issue because we’re [kind of] powerless if parents sign off.”

The issue of students missing tests is also affecting classrooms. “The other day a chemistry teacher came in and had given a test, and all of a sudden I started getting all of these calls and kids weren’t going,” attendance clerk Susannah Woerner said. “She came in and had the list of names and we looked them up, and some…just didn’t go take the test.”

Showing up to commitments is essential in life, according to Stratton. “If there are things that are keeping a student from wanting to be in a classroom then…they’re welcome to come see a counselor, they’re welcome to come see me to get their needs met,” she said.

Students are aware of this issue as well. “I feel like there [are people] on campus that seem to be having attendance issues,” sophomore Ellie Evans said. “[People say] ‘oh I don’t want to go to class’, ‘oh there’s a test next period, uh didn’t study, gonna go home’.”

The attendance meeting featured a discussion of hypothetical solutions, including a take-home form and grade points to incentivize showing up to class. “We just want to maintain a line of communication that your child is now behind, just like a standard form,” Sandner explained. Another option was described by Scharf. “Sometimes I give additional points for participation…on important days–tests, projects and presentations…for doing the assessment the day it’s given,” Scharf said.

The team plans to meet twice a month at lunch on Wednesdays and is encouraging students to attend these gatherings to share their opinions. As of late, no official solution has been reached.