Attendance Plans that Work - Part Two | Print |
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Written by Phllip L. Harris   

Now, in the real world, we also have this concept in the professional world of “sick leave.”  How does that work? 

Well, you work for a certain number of hours and you build up sick leave so when you are out of work, you’re paid out of the sick leave you’ve built up.  If you are out of work before you build up your sick leave, some companies let you “borrow” a limited amount and others will simply put you on leave without pay – a grand incentive to get back to work.

“Aha!,” you say.  “What about that sick leave thing?”
Well, just as the time clock can keep track of shortness, the time clock can also keep track of overtime.  Come to class early, stay late, come in during lunch or after school are all options for kids.  They can punch in and out when they do overtime and make up for all the time they have missed in class.  Moreover, they can stay late several times and “build up” a sick leave which when they really are sick and need to be out, they can be out and rest assured that they have enough leave built up that they don’t have to make up the time in order not to be docked on their grades.  How’s that for real world?  How’s that for putting attendance in the hands of the young people we’re training to be adults?  When the rough estimate results in a plus another simple amount of math is performed taking your total number so far for the quarter and subtracting the plus minutes from the existing minus minutes thus reducing the amount of time the kid owes me.  This means if you stay an hour after school the first week and aren’t late or don’t leave class early all week, you finish the week with a plus 60.  Or take it another way say, on Monday you’re an hour late, on Tuesday you leave 20 minutes early and on Wed you’re 10 minutes late, Thurs and Friday you’re on time and leave on time.  What do you have:
-60 +
-20 +
-10 =
-90 minutes you owe me. 

However, since you earned an extra 60 min last week by coming in after school, we add the +60 carried over from last week to the -90 for this week and your total on the top of the card is a -30.  Get it?  By the way, most kids will build up plus time.  Only a few kids will be in the minus category.  IMPORTANT:  Regarding the plus time.  Do NOT use a plus sign + in front of the number you circle on the top of the card.  If you do that, every kid with a minus will simply draw the vertical line to turn it into a plus.  Use something else to indicate a plus – I used a star.
“But your system doesn’t take into account excused or unexcused absences, what about that?  We have to accept excused absences, don’t we?” 
Well, let’s take unexcused absences – the system completely deals with that appropriately, they’re not here, they have to make up the time – reasonable punishment – or they take the hit on their grades. 
Excused absences:  Frankly, I rarely had those in my class cause a problem.  Kids wanted to be in my class so much that they’d be in the studio all hours of the day and night if I let them.  They’d always have sick leave built up and it wasn’t a problem at all.  If someone got run over by a bus or had a medical problem – I worked with them – I wasn’t a heartless ogre.  But I made sure that they knew that what I was doing was the exception to the rule and I fully expected them to make up the time eventually.  
Perhaps your school district is like mine and has the completely counter-productive rule that a student on school suspension for some rule infraction, it must be an excused absence.  The attendance policy for my class still works because although the school system does say that “the absence is excused however all work must be made up.”  And in a production class that “work” sometimes can’t be made up without requiring the entire production crew to come in on their own time so Johnny can do his “thing.”  Gee, I’m sorry but that’s impossible.  “Then you have to provide and alternative assignment,” says the administrator who doesn’t understand alternative assignments only reward bad behavior by allowing a bad kid to “get out of” something scott-free.  I mean, they get to miss school and not have to do the work.  Duh! 
Alternative assignment:  Something truly onerous – it seems the kids who end up on suspension are not kids who like to write so an alternative assignment might be:  “Do a research paper on the history of television commercials or how chromakey as become less used now because of CGI, or a do a white paper on the new technology offered by the RED camera.” 
If you think this is a ridiculous amount of work, it’s because you haven’t been doing it.  The kids do the time cards, I only check them once a week.  The math is so simple, I do it in my head in seconds.  Total per kid:  15 seconds.  It truly punishes kids who try to play the system and truly rewards the kids who don’t even need the reward because they’re the ones who are coming in all the time anyway.  Best of all when grades are “adjusted” for attendance issues at the end of the quarter and a parent calls, you merely say he missed 10% of the class you can’t expect that he gets an A.
Consistently, administrators were praising my student attendance.  I hardly ever had people out of class.  Hmmmm.  Maybe there’s something to this “real-world thing” after all…