18 March 2005

Cruel Schools

What could drive a parent to these lengths?! "I sat down and I ate three Mr. Goodbars because I was so angry," she said. "You can't lump parents in one group."

I can imagine what lumping might cause three Mr. Goodbars' worth of consternation for myself. In Ms. Donaldson's case, it was because she hadn't been sending her grandson to school and the District Attorney in Knoxville, TN, was talking about holding her accountable.

As if the quote wasn't amusing enough, try this on for kicks and giggles: the DA sent out letters to 582 parents of consistently truant students...and 41% didn't show up for the meeting with him.

Attendance issues are the plague of most schools' existences. How the heck are we supposed to be teaching kids when they don't show up? I have already posted on this issue, but this most recent article brings it all back to mind again.

Granted, it sounds like the woman quoted in the article has a grandson with some health problems---but what has kept her from (at minimum) calling the school to at least tell them that he was ill? Multiple times? If you're too lazy to pick up the phone...might it be reasonable to assume that you might also not take a kid to school because you didn't feel like making the effort?

Do parents understand that every unexcused absence a child has gets reported to the feds...and that the more of these absences a school has, the greater the penalties placed upon the school? Do they even stop to think that by keeping a kid from the opportunity to attend school, they are risking the future resources a school may have available for all kids? I'm not talking about playing hooky once in awhile, I'm talking about kids who miss at least once a week. Out of the 35 days we've had this semester, I have a kid who's missed 30...and another sitting at 20. It's maddening.

From a classroom standpoint, an unexcused absence is no skin off my nose. If a kid has this sort of absence, I'm under no obligation to allow them an opportunity to make up the grade. But if the absence is excused...then I have to provide an opportunity and a reasonable time to complete it. Most teachers find this a real headache---especially if the assignment happened weeks beforehand. It takes a great deal of time to find old assignments (or make up a replacement) and then grade them if/when the kid completes them. Hours are added onto my workload each year by just a few students who want to do things at their convenience, as opposed to getting up in the morning and coming to school like the rest of us.

I hope that Knoxville, Tennessee, puts its penalties for parents where its mouth is. And, I hope that Ms. Donaldson realizes that there won't be Mr. Goodbars in jail. While she's there, perhaps someone will see to it that her grandson gets to school each day.

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