Wow! Another news story condemning teachers: “Do teachers' absences affect student learning?” (Dec. 30 and TribLIVE.com). Well, duh, I guess so — but not as much as student absences do.
When I taught at Brashear High School, absenteeism was commonplace, tardiness through the roof. So many kids come late that Brashear takes homeroom attendance between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., the lunch hours, to ensure higher attendance for the day because Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) receives additional federal dollars for higher attendance rates.
Student absenteeism is so bad that PPS policy is to “give” an automatic 50-percent grade regardless of attendance. The rationale is that too many students were failing due to stricter attendance policies and not graduating because they did not meet state attendance requirements.
So, we want students to understand that it's OK to miss as many days of school as they want, without repercussion, but their teachers should not miss school, especially on days when habitual absentees show up?
What PPS students learn is what Walter Williams alludes to in his column “100 percent of nothing” (Dec. 23 and TribLIVE.com): “... the relevant question is whether some control of something is better than 100 percent control of nothing.” These young, out-of-control students are being educated in the new American way: how to beat the system.
Instead of promoting individual responsibility, PPS attendance policies enable more young people to grow up even more irresponsibly. In the words of Swiss philosopher Henri Amiel: “There is no curing a sick man who believes himself to be in health.”
The writer is a retired Pittsburgh Public Schools teacher.
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