Excuse card not the answer for relieving student absences

February 7, 2016 — by Michelle Koo and Eric Sze

According to statistics provided by assistant principal Brian Thompson, nearly 8,000 class periods have been recorded as excused absences due to illness so far this year. In recent months, an idea has arisen to help combat this trend: Give students a “get out of jail for free” card, which would allow them to skip one day of school without penalty each semester.

 

After hours of homework and procrastination, falling in and out of sleep at their desk, students realize they are nowhere near ready to take the next day’s exam in a demanding subjects such as AP Chem or AP Calculus.

Unwilling to fail the exam, they call in sick the the morning — with the support of their parents — not only to regain the sleep lost during the night, but also to alleviate some of the pressure on their backs.

According to statistics provided by assistant principal Brian Thompson, nearly 8,000 class periods have been recorded as excused absences due to illness so far this year. In recent months, an idea has arisen to help combat this trend: Give students a “get out of jail for free” card, which would allow them to skip one day of school without penalty each semester.

While this idea comes with good intentions, it is unlikely that instituting such a policy would completely prevent students from still calling in sick to skip tough tests. Students will likely still resort to feigning sickness, even with the “get out of jail for free” card, simply because one card isn’t enough.

And although the administration may not be able to prevent students from calling in sick to dodge an exam they’re unprepared for, it can work on tackling some of the root problems that lead students to make these choices in the first place.

Collaboration between teachers and students on ensuring a manageable testing schedule, especially in classes in which there is a high likelihood that an exam could occur on the same day, should be encouraged. For example, teachers of difficult classes like AP United States History and AP Calculus should check in with their students before assigning a test date to avoid multiple tests on the same day.

Some teachers have already instituted a homework pass or excuse policy within their own classrooms. Moreover, these passes are only limited to an excuse from a single assignment. A schoolwide pass would be difficult for teachers to handle — what if, for instance, all their students use the pass on the same day?  

As we constantly hear, but too often ignore, students should choose a schedule that is realistic for them. If students find themselves calling in sick to skip tests frequently, it is a good sign that their class load is too heavy for them to manage.

They need to re-evaluate their scheduling choices and their time management skills, and strongly consider cutting down on their various obligations. Although it’s a message students hate to hear, they need to be practical and clear-sighted when approaching course selection.

In the end, it is ultimately up to the entire community — the administration, teachers and students — to ensure balanced schedules and maintain a healthy learning environment. No one-time quick fix will do the job.

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