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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Or else what?

If a school system has to adopt a "show up or else" policy, it's a good sign things have gotten out of hand. At IPS, they plan to start firing teachers who fail to report absences or tardies, flunk students who don't show up regularly and on time, and even report parents to Child Protective Serives if their children rack up too many absences or tardies. This is how bad it's gotten:

At several schools, the attendance rate has fallen below 90 percent. That's crucial given that most new federal and state standards require schools to have attendance rates of at least 95 percent. Some schools have seen more than a third of their students rack up more than 10 unexcused absences.

It's appropriate for the school to get tough, but with the problem this bad, will even toughness work? What if the kids don't care if they flunk? What if CPS is already so overwhelmed it doesn't do anything with the new reports on neglectful parents? Could things have even gone this far without a collaborative effort by educators, parents and teachers to create a culture in which attendance and punctuality just aren't that important? An observation by a teacher in the comments shows how bleak the situation is:

"Show up on time, or else." Or else what? IPS makes a bold statement that they cannot back up. CPS cannot deal with this work load, and the number of kids being consistently late or absent is huge. When asked why they are late, kids give all kinds of excuses, and some kids are late almost daily. At my school, kids come in late, sign in, get a tardy pass and go to class. No discussion. It is rampant. I don't know what the solution is...we can't even get kids to wear belts to school, so why make these bold statements when the solution is not feasible. And why let parents pull their kids for family vacations? Take your vacation during the summer and get your kids to school on time, every day!! If you say you will not count vacations, every kid who is absent will be on a family vacation. IPS should put its policy in writing, with consequences, and handle it consistently at every school and with every student! Don't make statements you cannot back up with firm action.

Get-tough policies that aren't followed through on or which can't be enforced can actually make the problem worse.

I'm not going anywhere profound with this. But with another school year starting, we should be glad Fort Wayne has the public schools it does, not the ones Indianapolis has. I've been free with my criticism of FWCS over the years, but I think we have a higher percentage than most school districts in the state of educators, parents and teachers who are still trying to make public education work.


Mon, 08/09/2010 - 7:39pm

At the LEAD schools, the teachers have been told not to use their sick days "or else." I know you know who I am, but please keep this on background. I'd love to see a news story about this.