High School Improvement Team Proposes Attendance Policy Revisions

CLEARFIELD – While student absenteeism has raised concerns at the high school, the Clearfield school board on Monday night was presented with proposed revisions to the district’s current attendance policy during its committee meetings.

Teacher Dave Domico of the high school’s improvement team said its members have reviewed attendance policies, which have been implemented by other school districts. Their proposal represents a culmination of ideas from many of those, he said.

The faculty team assembled because of the high school’s performance on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) exams and its inability to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). The team has researched the factors affecting the PSSA scores and wants to address the arisen problem areas.

According to prior GantDaily reports, teacher Judi Bookhamer said the high school currently has 216 students in its senior class. Of those, 38 percent, or 83 students, missed 15 or more days of school as juniors. In addition, 75 percent didn’t achieve proficiency in one or more PSSA testing areas (reading, writing, math or science).

At the time of the last presentation, teacher Tangi Borden said 230 junior students would be taking the PSSA exam this year. Of those, 46 students had already missed 15 or more days of school. Further, 35 percent of those were then failing two or more classes.

Teacher Emily Hulburt said the faculty team wanted to revisit and revise the district’s current attendance policy with the school board. She said it would address “a major concern” that could position them to meet AYP standards in upcoming years.

Under the proposed attendance policy, the following reasons for absences would be accepted:

–      A specific illness/injury verified by a medical doctor’s excuse or parental note, indicating the nature of the illness or injury. A written excuse from a parent/guardian would be accepted from absences up to and including four consecutive days and or 10 total days during the school year. 

After 10 parent/guardian notes have been presented, the district would send notification to require the parent/guardian to verify any future illness/injury with a specific written excuse from a medical doctor.

After 15 days of absence, the district would notify parents by certified mail. An excuse/letter may be provided by the student’s doctor that states he/she may miss school due to a specific illness and the parent/guardian must refer to that when writing an excuse for each subsequent absence. These absences would then be excused. A new excuse/letter from the student’s doctor would then be required every 90 days.

–      A serious illness or death in the immediate family verified by a written excuse from a parent/guardian.

–      Quarantine.

–      To obtain emergency medical or dental attention or professional health care or therapy services.

According to the guidelines of the proposed policy, a student wouldn’t be granted credit for any semester course if absences from that course totaled more than 10 periods per semester. Also, students wouldn’t receive credit for any full-year course/program if absences totaled more than 20 periods/days for the year.

In addition, high school students wouldn’t receive credit toward graduation for any class(es) from which they have been illegally absent from a class, a confirmed truancy or class cut, more than three times during a full-year course. If a student lacks sufficient credits in any particular school year, it could result in the student being denied promotion to the next grade level, building and or graduation, the proposed guidelines read.

Students would be permitted to complete assignments, classwork and tests missed during an excused absence. However, students wouldn’t earn credit and would be awarded the score of a zero for any during an unexcused absence.

Students who are 17 years or older wouldn’t fall under the compulsory attendance law. Their unexcused absence(s) would result in notices mailed to parents/guardians and possible loss of credit for the affected course(s). These notices may be followed by a parental conference to determine the advisability of the student remaining in school.

“But it’s not just attendance. There are (other concerns) some related to teachers, some related to students,” Domico said. He said the team has also looked for ways to improve the school schedule, student dress code, etc., but it was all driven by the 4Sight Benchmark Assessments and the PSSAs.

This year’s PSSA exams went well, according to Guidance Counselor Susan Spaid, who described the students as “focused and committed” and reported positive feedback from them about their testing experience. For example, students found the math remediation courses helped as well as preparation provided by the high school’s English teachers.

“They just showed up and had a different attitude,” she said.  “Based on the feedback from the faculty and most importantly the students, I’m optimistic.”

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