Flawed tardy system encourages more students to be late

February 7, 2020 — by Serena Li

Many of us have experienced the panicked feeling of racing toward class knowing it’s 8:14 a.m. and the bell could ring at any moment. 

But not everyone.

As we sprint to first or second period, they stroll casually into their classes even after the bell rings. After all, why hurry to class if a tardy is a tardy no matter how late the student enters class?

Students who saunter into class late cause an interruption and disrupt the class. The loud creaking of the door and the rustling of the backpack being set down divert the attention of their peers, causing them to lose valuable instructional time. 

Despite the administration’s efforts, the school’s tardy policy fails to deter tardiness. 

The policy states that multiple tardies will be punished with detention, Saturday school, and even possible in-house suspension. The school also requires that students arriving late sign in with the office first before going to class, but those who are only two or three minutes late rarely ever do so. 

It takes more time for students to walk to the office and return a pink slip to their teacher, which subtracts more time from the student’s instruction than to simply walk to their classroom.

A similar system to the school’s experimental electronic tutorial sign-ins — which began Feb. 4 — could also be used for attendance. For example, the school could implement tardy tracking apps and scanners that allow students to view their attendance history and notify the office about their attendance. This method eliminates the time to walk to the office and allows more time for the student in the class. 

Another issue is the use of punishments rather than encouragement to coerce students to get to class on time. According to Sage Journals, praise is “recognized as perhaps the easiest modification teachers can make to address students’ problem behaviors.” 

The research states that there is a lack of empirical evidence that proves punishments are effective for decreasing the number of tardies. To put it simply, students will not stop oversleeping because of fears of being sent to Saturday school. 

Instead of only punishing students for being late, the school should also try positive reinforcement methods such as giving out slips for students who arrive on time consistently and allowing them to enter raffles for prizes or being excused from homework assignments and earning extra credit. These inducements would work better for many consistently truant students and would reward those who have already learned to be on time.

With the combination of meaningful tracking mechanisms and appropriate motivators the school can effectively create an adequate system to reduce the amount of tardiness. And who knows, perhaps some of those 8:14 laggards might even start sprinting to class.