Swine flu and boosting test scores to reward good attendance.

Several parents and teachers have sent me notes about their schools’ attendance incentives in the wake of our discussions this week about perfect attendance awards and their implications for Swine flu prevention.

I can understand giving kids a Popsicle or smoothie party but one middle school is taking it to extremes, at least to me.

A middle school in Cherokee is putting kids names in a hat for a weekly drawing for aMP3 player if the students have no absences, no tardies or no early checkouts.

But even more unusual, the same school is giving kids “passes” to earn points on the grades of their final exams each semester.

-If a student has O absences, they can earn five passes worth 15 points each.

-If they have one absence, they can earn four passes worth 10 points each.

-If they have two absences, they can earn one 10-point pass and two 5-point passes.

-If they three absences, they can earn two 5-point passes.

In the note to parents about the incentives, the school explains that absences are detrimental to student learning. I will buy that.  And I imagine that the school has had a problem with too many kids missing classes if they are taking these measures.

But is this the right response? To give students academic points on their final exams for coming to school?

46 comments Add your comment

Darren

September 18th, 2009
5:07 pm

Many high schools allow students to exempt finals when their attendance is outstanding. Don’t see how this is different.

concerned parent

September 18th, 2009
5:14 pm

Academic points on final exams is not the right response. Students with perfect attendance probably will not need extra points. Students with perfect attendance tend to have better grades. A problem I have with Cherokee County schools is that at the same time they are pushing perfect attendance, they are telling us to keep our kids home if they are sick (especially with swine flu), but punish the kids if we do keep them home. They will not give credit for a class if they miss more than 7 days in a semester – so if your kid gets the flu, they will probably not get credit for any classes that semester. Waivers are not automatic. So much for motivation!

Maureen Downey

September 18th, 2009
5:15 pm

Darren, I thought most high schools primarily allowed kids to exempt finals based on their grade point averages in the class. But this policy allows them to add a significant number of points to their final exam based soley on attendance. It doesn’t mention class performance or grades.
Maureen

philosopher

September 18th, 2009
6:42 pm

I sat in awards day last May and watched as TREMENDOUS time and attention were given to both perfect attendance and to the physical fitness awards- both fine accomplishments, yes…but they played up (heavily) how many years in a row the child had received the award for it, gave medals AND awards… a really big deal. But when they got to the academic awards, they were handed out hurriedly and NO accolade was given for those (my child, included) who had gone through ALL of elementary school with straight A’s…I think this clearly shows where the school’s priorities lie. I also wonder if schools themselves get some kind of incentives/rewards for having records that show good attendance…

philosopher

September 18th, 2009
6:54 pm

•My child has a chronic illness-as do many children- and misses 10 -12 days of school per year. Despite these days missed, she has maintained a straight A average throughout her school years…(so far ). My point…perfect attendance does not a student make.
• If 15 points is added to a failing grade, the student could potentially pass and certainly NOT have learned the material. If 15 points is added to a “C” grade, the child could now have an “A” without the study and hard work that makes that “A” earned and of value.
• Potentially, a child who NEEDS to be held back, is moved up to fail once again.
• Lastly, how can we consider unearned academic points to be a reward for a child? Does he really benefit from such a “gift”…I think not.
And with incentives like this lots of kids are going to TRY to go to school sick…endangering not only the students and teachers but themselves. Flu takes lives. While most do fine…there are many many lives lost every year to flu…and forgive my sick sense of humor, but…this H1N1 ain’t nothin’ to sneeze about!

cricket

September 18th, 2009
8:26 pm

As an elementary teacher I am perplexed by the obsession some parents have about grades. At the primary level it just does not matter if they get an A,B, or C. They have mastered the standard or they haven’t. Actually they don’t really have to master the standard either, not if their good at multiple guess questions. They will pass the CRCT at the gateway grades of 3, 5, and 8..Oh yeah,.actually they don’t really have to pass the test to be promoted then either. Actually, you could coach them on passing that test in less than 4 hours a week. I didn’t say educate them. About 18 years ago I started educating young children and it feed my soul and made many of them productive citizens and lifelong lovers of learning. I wish I still had that job. Oh wait, I do still have that job I am just not allowed time to do it. It’s not about the kids folks. It is about the adults. It mostly about the ones not working in the classroom but there are exceptions.

This has all become so crazy to me. I remember when I used to love teaching. Frankly, I still love teaching. I just don’t get a chance to do it very often. I am a good teacher, I know the content and have a flair for breaking it down to an understandable level. I don’t need a lesson plan to slow me down. The standards list is just fine. Just pick which one you want them to master and get out of the way. I am everything from a dramatic actress to a comedic genius in front of a group of second graders. (not in front of adults as much) I am a true lover of learning and I can make your child get just as excited about it as I am. HOWEVER NOW it’s different. It is over. I am still just is able to do my job but there is no need to send children into my room. I don’t have time… literally, I DON’T HAVE TIME TO TEACH them anything except how to pass that test. It is a tragedy because I have children in my second grade class who still want to learn. They still crave learning but it will not last much longer. I cry for them many evenings. While they are at this critical point I literally have to ban them from getting near me or speaking with me while I am trying to concentrate on entering daily data, counting ice cream money, coding attendance, writing up meeting minutes, trying to figure out which extension cord is loose. Many days I am just replaced with someone off the street to babysit while I go off to some meeting to talk about how best to teach children. As if we actually did that! When I am there I fight with 21century wonders. Everything is about data and technology and we can barely enter the data with the technology cocktail we have. The entire network is so overburdened with my Smartboard, projector, and document reader that almost ALL are rendered nearly useless and operating at a crawl. It is more frustration than Illumination under our set up! The lone fish that fries my last nerve before 9 every plucking day is that first addition XP laptop laboring from the overload and simple old age. I lose my religion almost every morning entering data that takes 20 times longer than it should (that’s while I should be teaching your kid of course) The set-up is all show and no go. Why bother with any of it then? I am required to in order to remain employed. I am required not to do my real job in order to keep my actual job. My lessons must be data driven and reflect use of technology even if the technology and data are the reason no lesson ever actually happens. Ya think I just needed a Friday night vent? Maybe a little!

I am sorry y’all I have just have had it. You might as well keep your kids home. Truthfully they are in my way. I have too much work to do to deal with them. Of course, I know some don’t really care because I am just a babysitter anyway but I am not mad about that today. Like I said, I love teaching but I am forgetting what it was like. Am I just sick to death of what has happened to our schools? Yes. Am I unhappy? Yes.. Should I just get another job if I don’t like it? Yes, and probably will as soon as I can. Does anything about me matter? NO, but your children do. I can leave when it starts to kill my soul. They can’t. That is what you can take away from my little vent tonight. Have a good weekend, talk to your kids, and teach them about something you love.

gwinnett educator

September 18th, 2009
8:48 pm

very well said cricket!!

Darren

September 18th, 2009
9:00 pm

Maureen – I stand corrected. Yes, it is GPA that can secure you a pass.

d

September 18th, 2009
9:24 pm

The hardest grades to earn in my classes are an A and a F….. and the students have to work hard to earn either.

oldtimer

September 18th, 2009
9:27 pm

I have found students with perfect attendence tend to make As or Bs along with other motivated kids. Kids who do not care or whose parents don’t will miss. The good ones do not need the “passes”. In fact I consider it unethical. A grade should reflect preformance. Other rewards do work. Verbal recognition, treats, good calls home, good notes home, free cokes at lunch. Things like this and they do not cost much. I once had a slew of nonreader boys reading like crazy for mini hersey bas. After they ate the candy we had grafts ofk their achivement going all over the halls. And, for peanuts they made 100 on AR tests.

[...] the whole story here: Maureen Downey aggregated by [...]

H.S, Math teacher

September 18th, 2009
9:35 pm

AS a high school math teacher of 15 year I can say that what Cricket says holds true all the way through high school. Don’t even start talking about SST and RTI.

V for Vendetta

September 18th, 2009
10:13 pm

Attendance = points?

The fact that someone had the gall to suggest such a thing is quite astounding. The fact that others actually thought it was a good idea is downright frightening.

ScienceTeacher671

September 19th, 2009
8:06 am

Points on the final exam for attendance seems unethical to me. I don’t think my administration would implement such a policy in any case, but thank goodness my class has an EOCT, so they legally can’t do that.

Of course, the state gives kids plenty of extra points anyway with the grading scale they use…65% and up equals an A….

Ashley

September 19th, 2009
8:45 am

It has to do with AYP. If you don’t have a certain attendance school wide, your school does not meet AYP. So, that’s their reasoning for the rewards.

LongtimeEducator

September 19th, 2009
9:40 am

Final exam points for good attendance is crazy. Reward them, but in a different way.
And folks, Cricket has it 100% correct. Teachers all over the state of Georgia are coming under a “new” way of evaluation called the Georgia Keys. It includes a primary emphasis on technology and using it for teaching and record keeping. Like Cricket said, you are so busy trying to get the technology to work and entering data, you don’t have time to teach. It’s all about the assessment now, and teachers are so busy “assessing” there’s no time to teach. I left the regular classroom two years ago and now work as a reading specialist trying to help students with reading difficulties. I don’t think I could go back to the crazy expectations being placed on regular classroom teachers. The worst part of this is so much of this extra work on teachers is to produce “data” that justifies someone’s administrative or state level job.

Jennifer

September 19th, 2009
9:45 am

I wonder what will happen in counties that use “excessive absences” as a tool to remove middle school students to alternative education schools ? That data will be interesting to watch this year. And yes, it is tied into AYP. And yes, it removes the data from AYP from reporting for the home schools. Attendance is the second indicator for any school that does not graduate students, so mostly elementary and middle schools.
So how this works in practice is that a student with borderline behavior (posturing to fight) which may not normally land a student in an alternative center…coupled with absences (I don’t think it matters if it is unexcused or excused for AYP) may be at a much greater risk for removal this year.

Rural Education

September 19th, 2009
10:05 am

This is another example of that “self-esteem” movement that has helped to hurt schools. We reward students for doing what is expected, which does not lead to self esteem. Going beyond what is expected and exceeding will bring about self esteem, telling someone they are wonderful and handing out trophies for just showing up is ridiculous.

lulu

September 19th, 2009
11:23 am

Never mind whether it’s fair, helpful, or educational to arbitrarily base final exam grades on a child’s immune system.

What about the fact that this is merely encouraging students to come to school sick? I thought we were trying to keep kids well so that they could be educated – but apparently these administrators are comfortable turning schools into sick wards. If my child were in that school, I would pull him out. I’m not about to risk my child’s health – and life, in some cases – so that some slack kid can pass his classes because he came to school with h1n1 or some other disease.

Shannon, M.Div.

September 19th, 2009
11:23 am

Most posters have glossed over or ignored Maureen’s basic point: that there is something schizoid about a school system that both glorifies perfect attendance and sends the message that if a child is sick, the child should stay home. My suspicion is that most parents do not realize the pressure placed on students (particularly at elementary levels) to keep that perfect attendance record. I remember perfect attendance being quite honored at the private school I attended through 8th grade, and even then, in the 80s, we laughed about the contradiction.

I tell my students (I’m a grad student teaching at Georgia State) that if they are sick, stay home. They’ll get better faster, and I won’t hire an assassin to take them out because they gave me the flu. Excessive absences are a problem, but periodic absences are often a reflection of *responsibility*. I honestly believe that promoting *perfect* attendance sets students up for unrealistic expectations of themselves and others. We are not automatons, and we do not just “run” forever without ever “breaking,” getting ill, or even needing a day for personal reasons. I would never want a boss, for instance, who literally expects perfect attendance, and I doubt anyone else would, either.

Shannon, M.Div.

September 19th, 2009
11:25 am

Lulu gets it!

catlady

September 19th, 2009
12:10 pm

See no reason to reward kids for stuff they are required (by law) to do. A nearby system rewards kids who are always in trouble–when they behave correctly they get time to play on the WII game. Yet, the kids who stay out of trouble all the time DON”T get to play the game! How is that for messed up?

We were told the other day that if kids don’t turn in their work, they cannot get a zero. Now, you don’t work, but yet expect your boss to pay you? I am of a mind that we should just give every student an A. Especially since when they fail the CRCT in our county they are NOT held back. IT APPARENTLY REALLY DOES NOT MATTER.

Who is in charge of this mess?

catlady

September 19th, 2009
12:20 pm

Using student behavior, which the teacher does not control, to tell how “successful” a school is is downright crazy!

It would be possible (the state university system did it) to use predictive achievement vs. actual achievement to determine school efficacy. For example, a high turnover, low SES school with lots of single families and apartments in their district might have a predictive pass rate of 55%. If actually 60% of the students pass, that school is successful. Another school (such as in East Cobb County), with high SES and little turnover might be expected to have a 90% success rate. If “only” 88% of the kids pass the CRCT, that school would NOT meet expectations.

As I said, it is possible to do a predictive model–the SUS did it in about 1997 for the colleges–but it would take a great deal more sophistication in research than we apparently have at the state BOE. Plus leadership.

catlady

September 19th, 2009
12:22 pm

Darren: The difference between this and exam exemption is that with exam exemption, the kids ALREADY have shown they know the material and they have attended as well. Rewarding them for attendance without them showing mastery is nuts! We have lots of kids whose bodies we see every day but their minds rarely show up and engage. You want a doctor who came to medical school classes every day, or do you want a doctor who KNOWS medicine?

H1N1 Victim

September 19th, 2009
12:24 pm

I am a middle school teacher recovering from H1N1 contracted from one of my students. My case was severe. I have not been to work in three weeks. KEEP YOUR SICK CHILDREN AT HOME! Not only have I suffered, but my students have missed three weeks of education. Angry and disappointed.

GA Teacher

September 19th, 2009
12:40 pm

THis happens at many schools. Why? Attendance is often the second indicator necessary to make AYP. In addition to scores, you must have another indicator under no child left behind. Almost all elementary and middle schools choose attendance. My middle school in middle georgia gives mp3 players, Wii s, bikes, movie passes, etc. All in the name of passing a test. NCLB really has made making ADEQUATE yearly progress the end all be all. Personally, getting excited about being adequate would be comical if it were not so important.

Darren

September 19th, 2009
1:01 pm

catlady – I don’t disagree. However, there does exist a relationship between attendance and the acquisition of material. And if this puts kids in the seats (I don’t think it will – those who care are already there) then I would like to see if there was a significant impact on the final scoring, and at what levels.

The typical HS student is a different animal that the med student.

Darcey

September 19th, 2009
1:18 pm

So we are promoting going to school sick in order to get these points? And we wonder why the epidemics are so wide spread? Kids might not stay home if they can win an MP3 player for “perfect attendance” so they will make everyone around them sick….. Bad Idea.

catlady

September 19th, 2009
1:18 pm

Of course, then “passing” the CRCT would have to MEAN something. Right now it does not.

catlady

September 19th, 2009
1:24 pm

I have been hospitalized several times from illnesses caught when sick kids are sent to school (not to mention other times when I have missed several days). How can I recoup my money?

Until parents are financially penalized for sending sick kids to school, teachers and their classmates will continue to suffer. I am not talking about the kid gets sick at school–I am talking about they get dosed with Tylenol and sent on sick anyway.

Of course, with H1N1, the CDC has danced around waayy too much. Now the finding is that the child needs to stay out even when the fever is gone. Won’t ever happen. And our school, so proud of its attendance rate, is VERY slow to send kids home. Have to be actively vomiting or temp over 101!

trying hard to be patient

September 19th, 2009
2:10 pm

100% correct Cricket. Well said!! Bravo!! I am a parapro and teachers and other staff members ask me all the time why I won’t go back and get my degree. I don’t make much money, but, I will not teach full time. The data, data, and more data has deterred me from teaching. I love being a parapro. I don’t have to deal with all the red tape paperwork and data involved.

As far as points for attendance? That is a crock! Schools use attendance for AYP on the CRCT and our school has incentives, ice cream parties. I think that is fine for elementary schools. Extra points for attendance? NO WAY!!

Darren

September 19th, 2009
2:24 pm

catlady – med student is a little different than run of the mill high school kid. Kids who have attendance problems don’t go to med school.

I’m saying it’ll be interesting to see if any of this works, and with what subgroups, and to what extent. Those kids who care are already, and I would think it’ll only end up icing the cake for them.

But to say that this intervention as no merit from the start is to reject any relationship between attendance and accomplishment.

paradox

September 19th, 2009
2:48 pm

Cricket’s story holds true! I teach gifted middle school students and this year seems to be the worse. Students seem to be unable to perform the tasks I give them that others students in previous years were successful at. I’m trying to change my lessons weekly if not daily to better accommodate this years’ students but there is so little time to make the lessons more affective (no pun intended.) However, when I saw their scores from last year’s CRCT (the Holy Grail of all Tests in Middle School) they were far superior than students’ from years past. It’s a crime! We’re stealing their dignity.

Congratulations Cricket! You’ve done a great job at teaching them how to pass “that” test. You’re also correct in the fact that their crave for learning did not last. It’s gone! There are a few who still have it though. I believe they’ll always have it; they have a predisposition, unlike the majority. But it’s not YOU who have failed. Take a good look at their parents. YOU probably spend more quality time and care more about their daily activities than their parent(s) do. They too barely have time for anything else, let alone anyone else. It’s no excuse but a sad reality. It’s a crime how we have let our technological society overcome us. Just as scores and attendance is all about numbers, so is time and technology. Without zeroes and ones, where would we be? I’ll tell you, right back to where we once were . . . before zeros and ones. Sure some say it was a better way of life and things were easier but wouldn’t we just progress or regress to where we are now? Though dignity can’t be measured in numbers,

keep on doing what you do and don’t fall victim to the crime.

cricket

September 19th, 2009
4:11 pm

“Doing what I do” is the wrong thing to do and I know it. I don’t think I will live much longer if things continue this way. I don’t drink much water because I don’t have time to go to the restroom. I stay dehydrated. I worry all the time, sometimes at night, about my “dogs and ponies” being in place for an administrative gotcha check. I worry that I didn’t turn something in. I worry about those kids who still want to learn but have a teacher who can’t possibly do it and everything else. I have gone so far as to explain it to them which I will eventually get written up for if it gets back to an admin. On top of that, I feel guilty because I am supposed to be teaching them and I am not. I teach in a Title 1 school and I am one of very few teachers who have the unique ability to get these kids excited about things they would have otherwise never heard of. I love that part of it and it breaks my heart every day that is wasted by the storm of mish-mash I have to do instead.

Tom

September 20th, 2009
12:13 am

I was under the impression that attendance = $$$$$$$$ for the school system. I thought that the school system gets docked money for each absence. What else would so motivate the administrators to encourage attendance? Am I wrong?

[...] Read the original: Swine flu and boosting test scores to reward good attendance … [...]

Lola

September 20th, 2009
8:32 am

Old Timer, your students would excel for Hershey bars… mine would sell their academic soul for a Pixie Stick. I happily purchase bags of this candy because they want them and we can work out a short time deal for one. Works for me! Works for them! They read, which increases their knowledge and I give up a Pixie. I also pay for pizza parties and full sized candy bars a few times a year for large scale incentives. During the CRCT it is critical for the students to arrive on time, eat a good breakfast, come to school and not check out before testing is over. I find it worth my $20 to at least have my students at their best for testing. It is a hassle for me and others when the student misses any one of these critical areas. I use a point system for the large incentives and if you earn a specified number you are “invited”. Well everyone wants to be invited. In several years I have not had a student not earn enough points for the “We’re glad the CRCT is over snack”. God forbid we call it a party. We are only allowed to have one party annually, yet the school consistently has all of these event days that are the SAME THING. Honor roll, reading rally, perfect attendance, behavior.

Echo

September 20th, 2009
10:16 am

Catlady, if they can’t get a 0 for not doing the work, what do they get? And I totally agree with Cricket…”teaching” is not really teaching, its just testing and more testing (gotta get that DATA!!!). One semester I actually had 52 days of “testing” out of 89! The tests last for about 1/2 the period and I spent the other half “preparing them for the next test”.

Echo

September 20th, 2009
10:16 am

Opps that should be 189 days, not 89 days!

Food for thought

September 20th, 2009
10:19 am

@Tom – we have to do an FTE count several times during the year – those counts determine the school’s cut of Federal money, and it’s based on enrollment, not attendance. It may determine the amount of state money, too – not sure. I’m also not sure, but I don’t think we get any money based on daily attendance – Tony, maybe you could help with this one?

What I do know though, is that attendance is a “second indicator” for making AYP – if more than 15% of your population is absent more than 15 days, it can affect AYP – I’m pretty sure that applies to the sub-groups as well (I know we have a problem with our SPED attendance, and we have extra incentives for them). Attendance is critical and counted during the CRCT as well, although a kid is counted present if they make the test up – this came from schools having kids that they thought might not test well stay home so their scores wouldn’t pull everyone down – nice, eh?

I don’t have a problem with requiring attendance for the test, since the make-up window is fairly long, for the reason stated above (encouraging the poor test takers to stay home). I do have a problem with attendance as an overall second indicator since it’s not something we can control (and this year it’s going to be a huge problem – we’ve already experienced a crazy amount of absences) and I don’t want someone’s sick child infecting me!

Finally, while I don’t want sick kids coming to school, I see absolutely nothing wrong in recognizing perfect attendance (I can’t see how giving finals points is appropriate though). I think we need to recognize more excellence and more perfection, and not have so many “feel good” rewards.

Buford MS mom

September 20th, 2009
9:43 pm

Buford MS has a dress code for Mon-Thurs. On Fridays, they can wear spirit wear (jeans/camo pants and still a dress code colored shirt)IF IF IF they have perfect attendance, no missing work and no discipline issues for the previous week.
And attendance means: no tardies/check outs/absences; since all the poor students that hate dress code would love a free day, nobody will stay home!
Oh, and at Buford HS, final exam exemption is for perfect attendance and GPA…crazy!
Somebody in the schools or a parent needs to step up and say something about this ridiculous policy: it should only be unexcused absences that count against these students.

SallyB

September 20th, 2009
9:55 pm

@CRICKET!
Everything you said rings true for me and many of my FORMER colleagues.
We used to love teaching so much that we thought we would continue to teach until they had to carry us out on stretchers. Then, well, CRICKET described it perfectly. No time to teach…..and worse, NOONE in charge actually wanted me to teach . Everything was for data and demonstration….otherwise known as “the show”…the “dog and pony” show, which is what all the teachers called the “GOTCHA” visits to the classrooms./ So, at the end of that year, 5 teachers at my school retired and 8 left teaching. Since then, the ones who are left are counting the days until they can leave. Yep…it is indeed a real MESS.

Joy in Teaching

September 21st, 2009
9:22 am

My heart goes out to cricket. I’m right there with you. There is no time to teach in public schools, although administrators and county offices don’t want the public to know that. And it’s all because of the teacher/school accountability mandates set forth by No Child Left Behind. And President Obama wants to make that law even more oppressive. Goody for us.

My student’s are much less knowledgeable about the basics than they were 22 years ago when I first started teaching. The state of Georgia SAYS that we have “rigor” in our state standards. Bull hockey. The only real rigor taking place in schools is the dog and pony show that teachers have to keep up in order to show that we are doing our job.

I’m already thinking about retiring early when I hit my 25th year as I can’t even fathom what schools whill be like in 8 more years.

philosopher

September 24th, 2009
8:21 am

Some of your comments reflect a great deal of sorrow and frustration in the teaching profession-based on quite legitimate issues. I have experienced the same in medicine. But I will say, from experience, that when you hit bottom emotionally in your profession, the people around you and the ones you serve are affected…negatively. A choice needs to be made: use your amazing talents to see what you can do to improve it, change it or adjust. Or if you can’t change it and can’t live with it… change teaching environments or professions in order ease your stress. You’d be surprised what a jolt of energy change can give you.
And as a nurse and a public school parent of 22 plus years, I firmly believe that like a burnt-out nurse, a burnt-out teacher can inflict lasting harm.

Missy

November 5th, 2009
12:01 pm

It is all about money. There is an incentive behind this. The principal’s make a type bonus you would say for more students with perfect attendance. So this is why I think it is pushed so hard.

[...] am aware and have reported here that Georgia schools are boosting grades to reward perfect attendance for AYP purposes, which seems [...]