Tardy policy changes after inconsistencies in student attendance among district high shools

Photo+by+Amy+Blevins.

Photo by Amy Blevins.

Harsh Singh

Photo by Amy Blevins.
Feature photo by Amy Blevins
When students returned to school this week, there was more than a calendar change to remember.
Any student who arrives more than 15 minutes late to class will be counted absent.  RBHS principal Dr. Jennifer Mast, said she received an e-mail from Dr. Jolene Yoakum, assistant superintendent at Columbia Public Schools. Mast said Yoakum’s email noted that the district had encountered  inconsistency in students’ attendance.
The email “said that it’s going to be necessary for all of our secondary schools to have consistent attendance policies,” Mast said. “They just decided in order to be consistent, which is really important for recording purposes, they were going to make the changes we made.”
Dr. Lisa Nieuwenhuizen, RBHS assistant principal, said staff in the information technology department for Columbia Public Schools, people at Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the district’s assistant superintendent looked through high school attendance rates to find the inconsistencies in attendance among secondary schools.
“So this is just making it the same for every single class,” Nieuwenhuizen said. “Parents can’t excuse tardies when students are late, so I think we might see some problems with that. But really it’s about having to be here on time.”
Michelle Baumstark, CPS community relations director, said the Columbia Public Schools board recognizes the importance of regular student attendance to a successful learning experience. Research supports the fact that attendance is crucial to improving student achievement.
“Students are expected to be in class on time,” Baumstark said.   “Being late impacts their academic success as well as that of the other students in the class.  It is a disruption to the learning environment.”
Gregory Irwin, AP World teacher at RBHS, said the new policy will have a good influence on attendance rates at RBHS.
“I think it fits in well with RBHS’ commitment to freedom with responsibility. The number of students affected by this will be minimal, and those it does affect are misusing their freedom and need some clearer external accountability from administrators, staff, and faculty,” Irwin said. “I think it is fair and good for all students since excessive absences (including tardiness) is one of clearest causes of academic failure according to the US Department of Education.”
For second, third and fourth period, there was a 10-minute time span to arrive in class and not be counted tardy. The change this month makes the policy consistent for all four hours.
Sophomore Kelsey Knorr said the 15-minute policy won’t work because, in 15 minutes, students will have decided whether they will go to class or skip it.
“I think if students are already 15 minutes late to class then they’re either going to skip the entire block or they’re just saying that class isn’t important enough to come to,” Knorr said. “I think it’s kind of dumb rule because by that time kids have already made up their mind if they’re going to come to class or not.”
Still, some students believe the new policy will have a good effect on attendance. Senior C.J. Ardini said fewer students will be counted tardy with a 15-minute policy.
“I think the policy will be a good thing because it will cause less people to be late to class if they know it will count as an absent,” Ardini said. “Some people have the mindset of missing just being a truent and it not having that many consequences. But with it being an absent it will get more people to come to class and get their work done.”
By Harsh Singh and Molly Mehle
Do you think all three high schools should share the same tardy policy?