2,000 Students May Have To Repeat Grade

WATERBURY, Conn. -- Around 2,000 students in Waterbury schools might have to repeat their current grade under the city's tougher absenteeism policy.

Students with 19 or more unexcused absences can't advance grades. Under a new policy in place this year, notes from doctors and parents delivered at the end of the school year are not considered excuses.

"These kids shouldn't be advancing - end of discussion, unless I hear otherwise," Board of Education President Patrick J. Hayes Jr. said Monday. "It would make a mockery of the whole system."

Some 2,025 students have missed 18 or more school days - 10 percent of the total school year. Most of those absences in the 18,200-student district were among high school students.

School officials reported that almost a third of the student body at Crosby High School has missed too many days to be promoted to the next grade.

School officials adopted the tougher policy last year after noting the number of excuses at the end of the year. An average of 1,500 students missed school each day last year and officials were concerned too many absences were being waived by principals.

The new policy accepts doctor's notes only if they document a severe or chronic illness and are delivered as soon as the student returns to school.

Officials said parents are still submitting ineligible end-of-year notes that attempt to excuse students for months at a time.

Despite the determination of Hayes and other board members to clamp down on excusing absences, some administrators said there should be exceptions.

Superintendent David L. Snead said some students already held back once, should be excused so they avoid repeating the grade yet again.

"You get diminishing returns" with each repeated year, Snead said.

Student Cara Welch of Kennedy High School told Eyewitness News that the new city-wide low-tolerance police needs review. She said she learned last week that she won't graduate because of poor attendance.

Welch said she had knee surgery and a broken ankle this year and her father was very sick as well. She said she had doctors notes explaining each absence.

"You were out 70 days this year?" asked Channel 3 Eyewitness News reporter Leon Collins. "How many of those days were documented in a note by a medical doctor?" he asked.

"Over 60," Welch said. "Without doctors notes, I had only six days absent."

Assistant Superintendent Paul V. Sequeira cited "humanistic values" as a valid reason why some chronically absent students should be allowed to advance.

1 comment:

Mrs. Chili said...

Isn't this just common sense?

School is, essentially, young people's job. If I miss more than a few days of work, my boss is going to be looking for someone else to replace me come the end of the term. How is school any different? More to the point, how can kids expect to advance if they've missed at least 10% of the material.

I think this is a wonderful article, and I really hope that the Waterbury district will be able to withstand the firestorm of pressure that's going to accompany this move.