Make-up policies need to be more straightforward

April 30, 2010 — by By staff

For students, the days of kindergarten, when the most harmless cold merited a weeklong absence from school, are long gone. Questions of “Are you contagious?” have been replaced by “How many tests are you missing?” and “How much will your grade go down by?”

It’s a sorry state of affairs when students have to sacrifice their health for academics. But a larger issue is managing inconsistent make-up policies among different teachers, a problem most students will encounter at least a few times in their high school career. In the interest of learning, the system needs to be changed.

It is hard to define the flaws of the current system, since frankly, there is no consistent policy for make-up work. At Saratoga High, teachers seem to forge their own make-up policies. This has led to a complex nexus of rules and policies that a student must navigate to pay for getting sick.

Missing a crucial day because of an upset stomach can lead to having to make up numerous tests, labs and in-class projects. The problem doesn’t have as much to do with students being overburdened as it does with a lack of cohesive, streamlined policy. Each teacher expects the student to make up their work first, and students are forced to confront the same problem that the Time Traveler faced in H.G. Wells’ famous novel. Unlike the Traveler, however, students don’t have a time machine.

And until one is invented, students will have to find some, earthly way of making-up tests, quizzes, classwork and homework for multiple classes. Of course, a simple imposition of a school-wide make-up system could relieve this burden. This would demand that teachers relinquish their own policies—policies that range from a refusal to allow any make-up exams to others that involve spending tutorial time in that teacher’s room.

Teachers have seemingly valid reasons for these policies, usually because they want to preserve the integrity of tests. Students who miss exams because of illnesses gain a slight advantage over their peers by having an extended time to study; however, there do exist those who abuse this advantage, leading to scandals and a teacher’s deeper suspicion of those legitimately ill.

Understandably, situations such as these prompt teachers to impose more creative policies; one includes exempting students altogether from taking a make-up test while counting the next exam for double credit. This policy neither hurts nor benefits the student who had been out ill unless that student has a borderline grade and muse relying on a single test in order to buffer his percentage will be stuck with his grade—the negative implications of this policy are obvious.

An obvious solution exists to mitigate the majority of students’ problems, apart from a school-wide distribution of Tylenol. Quite simply, communication channels between teachers need to be streamlined and better utilized. A system needs to be put in place, perhaps during the Wednesday morning collaboration, to ensure that teachers don’t have conflicting demands.

Such a system would at least consolidate the post-sickness work that students have to finish.

Adding insult to injury (literally, in some cases), current make-up policies, or lack thereof, perpetuate students’ stress in the way a bad loan still draws interest—and students are often the poorer for it.

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