No “Breakfast Club” here

September 25, 2014

The Owatonna High School’s attendance policy has been the same for the previous three years. This year, though, the number of allowable absences has been dramatically reduced.  Quarterly, students are allowed three absences instead of six. Throughout the semester, students are allowed six instead of nine, and for the entire year, students can have twelve absences versus the previous twenty. The reason for this significant change is due to the results of missing class. Usually, by the time the student reaches those above stated number of absences, they are at a C- or are already failing the class. Statistics, and common sense, say that students who miss more school tend to have a lower GPA. The new attendance policy allows students to be notified more quickly of the absences and it gives them the time to catch up on the work they have missed, thus raising their GPA and preventing the academic fall that so often results. “Our primary focus is the education of our students. Cutting down on absence numbers is intended to get kids in school and get them the education they need,” said Assistant Principal Nicole Adams.

Another significant change involves “Saturday School”, or the lack thereof. This year, there will no longer be “Saturday School.” Instead, administration is beginning something they called Zero Hour. This change was made thanks to years of collected data . The data revealed that students who were truant or unexcused during the school day did not show up to “Saturday School.” The consequence for that was in school suspension or ISS. Being placed in ISS resulted in the student missing even more class time. The consequences were having a worse effect than the problem itself. “Saturday School” was not an incentive to show up for class nor was ISS seen as something to be avoided. In addition, many of the students required to attend “Saturday School” work and more times than not, they were unable to attend. Zero Hour serves the same purpose as “Saturday School,” but instead of being held on Saturdays, it will be held before school from 7:30 to 8:00, after school from 2:30 to 3:00,and during the student’s lunch period. Zero Hour provides students the time to catch up on the school work they missed during their absence and is a more efficient way to ensure students are held accountable. It also allows the student a flexible schedule to serve their time so that catching up is possible. Ms. Adams said, “It’s [Zero Hour] also great because if the teacher of the class the student missed is still in the building, we can arrange for the teacher and student to work together and the student can receive the instruction they missed.” The flexibility of Zero Hour also allows the student to make up the time they missed in chunks instead of all at once. Chunking the time, instead of doing it all at once, makes it not quite so overwhelming for many students, enabling them to, hopefully, complete the time required. Ms. Adams said, “The amount of Zero Hour required depends on how much class the student missed. It will be a case by case kind of thing.” Another added bonus of Zero Hour is the incentive to not miss class. High school students value the time they have before and after school as well as lunch- no teachers, no work and plenty of friends. Missing these blocks of essentially free time is not something to look forward to whereas missing class could be.

These changes are intended to keep students in school and receive the education they need to make it in the “real world.” Ms. Adams said, “We want our students to succeed and be successful. These changes provide that opportunity to catch up and pull the grade they need.” OHS students were informed of these changes in all class meetings on the first day of school. The OHS staff hopes these new policies will help kids and encourage them to perform well in school.

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