(The Sentinel) — Wichita Public Schools Unified School District 259 has declined to answer questions about an attendance policy which — theoretically — would allow students to miss the majority of a class and still get credit for having attended.
According to emails obtained by the Sentinel, a student who arrives before the final 10 minutes of a class is counted tardy — but not absent — in the Wichita public school system.
A March 22, 2022, email from Brent Lewis, the president of United Teachers of Wichita, to Deputy Superintendent of Schools Gil Alvarez said he had received concern from members of his organization about a change in attendance policy, wherein students who previously would have been counted absent if they arrived more than 20 minutes after class began would now simply be considered “late” if they arrived before the last 10 minutes of class.
A response from Alvarez stated the policy was actually implemented in 2020.
“Attendance measures if the student attends school or class (student is in seat) NOT to ‘punish’ students on their attendance record because they missed teacher delivery or instruction.” Alvarez wrote. “We know that missing instruction is a consequence of being late to class and will have to make up the work missed.”
Alvarez went on to cite an example of a student who was 20 minutes late and was then counted absent, even though they had been in their seat receiving instruction for perhaps 70 to 80% of the class. The student would then have an absence recorded, and a call would be made to their parent as if they had been absent even though the student was in school, simply tardy.
“The change accurately shows with a tardy that a student is actually in class even if the student misses portions of the classtime (sic.),” Alvarez wrote. “We still allow for the last 10 minutes of class for a student to be counted absent but normally a student would wait in the office until next class period if they missed that amount of classtime, (sic.) which deserves an absence.
“This allows for accurate attendance reporting if a student actually makes it to class.”
While it may be unfair to count absent a student who has actually been in class for the majority of instruction, theoretically a student could simply attend the last few minutes of each class and get credit for having been there — while having actually been absent.
The district’s attendance policy doesn’t seem to be in students’ best interest academically, considering that more than half of Wichita students are below grade level and less than 20% proficient on the state assessment test.
The Sentinel emailed Alvarez to ask if a student could — indeed — miss the majority of instruction time for a class or classes and still be given credit for being in class, but received no response as of press time.