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Attendance important for teachers

By Pat Rosenthal

It is almost time for summer to end and school is beginning for another year.   One determinant on how well a student does academically during the school year is the student’s attendance.  Not only does it effect grades but also retention, dropout and graduation.

I was listening to a television program the other day and a mother was protesting her son not receiving the perfect attendance award as he had to be out of town for a family emergency the last four days of school.  My take on that is there are very few who have perfect attendance each year and hardly ever for an entire school career so we need to reward his accomplishment.  I was also curious to know why this parent and student thought this was an important attribute.

When I was teaching and even as an administrative person I rarely missed being at work.  I think when I retired I had over 200 sick days accumulated.  The persons that I taught with at the beginning of my career were the same as me and never missed as we did not want our students to miss anything and even though we had substitutes we always gave them alternate materials as we wanted to be sure the students understood.  Plus, we like teaching and enjoyed our jobs.  Teachers, I know, are usually happy with their environment and are influential in students coming to school.

It seems now that attendance is not as important to teachers and students.  Perhaps it is the outside influence of having more entertainment and outside activities that make some tired and wanting to take a rest.  Honestly,  I think there is a pattern that one begins when you start the job.  To be sure, parents of children must miss occasionally for sick kids and that is understandable.  Students can also be sick but normally not in a pattern unless there is an ongoing illness.

I remember one student that I had and he missed an average of two days a week.  It was for various reasons.  He always had a doctors note.  I was in charge of his portfolio and it was not going to be complete.  Finally,  the time got close so the day he attended I asked him what days he was going to be there so we could finish.  He said he would come whenever I needed him to be there so we set up an agreement and he came to school the entire next week and we finished.

What are the outcomes of poor attendance?  I have already said that failure usually follows.  Ordinarily I would have said that they would dropout.  However, since the dropout age has been changed from 16-18 so they cannot leave.  Retention actually overloads the class size when the student cannot move to the next grade.  It also keeps students from being with friends their age so they begin to dislike school and thus quit attending and the cycle continues.

What are the outcomes of poor teacher attendance?  Recently there has been new information from the Teacher Retirement System that concerned me.  The possibility that teachers cannot accumulate sick days during their teaching career.  As I said before in this article, I had over 200 sick days when I retired.  These days added to my retirement benefits.  What is the outcome of taking the days from teachers?  Everyone will use every day they have every year.  More teachers out per day and more sub teachers for students.  The learning takes place with the same person delivering the message and knowing his/her students and how they learn.  More importantly, this could cause an exiting from those wanting to enter the teaching profession as a career.

The state needs to rethink this premise and give positive rewards for teachers who recognize that it is important to be there everyday and for their influence on student attendance.  Businesses such as Toyota already recognize their employees with perfect attendance and they are successful.  Why is the state punishing rather than applauding?


Pat Rosenthal is a former teacher and administrator for Clark County Public Schools.