At Tuesday night's meeting, the Coventry School Committee revisited the issue regarding the high school's attendance policy that would deduct grade points from students for unexcused absences and if it was in conflict with the Town's Basic Education Plan (BEP). When originally discussed, Committee members had differing opinions on whether or not attendance should be considered as behavior and agreed to ask RI Education Commissioner Deborah Gist her opinion on the matter.
Superintendent Michael Convery explained that Gist's response was not strictly for or against the policy, stating the separate grade reporting should be done for effort and behavior. (See attached PDF.)
"It's the best that we can ask for from the commissioner," said Attorney Timothy Groves Esq. "It is a mixed answer, but in regards to the current policy, it does not run afoul of the current BEP."
The decision stated that any deduction would need to be tied to the points that a student could or should have earned during an absence; tests, quizzes, presentations, etc. This would mean that if a student missed a day of school where a quiz was given, possible points earned for that quiz may be deducted, however if a student misses a day of school where a graded assignment is not given, no points would be deducted.
"Blanket deductions that are not tied to a particular grade that could have been earned are not something that RIDE (RI Department of Education) would uphold if challenged," explained Groves. "For what it's worth, blanket deductions are frowned upon."
The Commissioner's decision did not touch upon 's policy of giving students the number of days missed to make up assignments.
Opinions on the issue still differ, as some educators believe that the policy influences students to attend their classes, who may otherwise stay home from school or skip periods.
"I think it would be detrimental to the students if the policy was taken away," said CHS teacher Vinny MacCarone.
Others feel that students should not have grade points deducted for missing class, but perhaps different forms of discipline.
"Philosophically, I'm against the policy and I think that students could be given some other consequences, like not being able to attend social events," said Chairperson Kathy Patenaude. "They either know the material or they don't and being in class doesn't always guarantee that the kid is even listening. I'm mainly concerned with achievement and that when kids get out of high school, they are performing better."
The Committee will discuss the matter once again at a future meeting after some grade and attendance information has been collected.
"I never liked attendance being tied to any kind of grade using a standards-based grading system," said Convery. "I'd like to see some data on how many kids have been affected by this policy."
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