From The Staff Opinion

New attendance policy: is this even a thing?

You know that new attendance policy you’ve been so devastatingly angry/righteously excited about for the past month?  Well, we’re going to do a little exercise right now to help you understand this incredibly important piece of regulation.  Take out a blank sheet of printer paper (preferably 8 ½” x 11”, but legal pads are acceptable) and draw two circles (use a compass if possible).  Now, put everything that’s different about the new policy in one circle and everything you liked about the old policy in the other.  Which circle has more information in it?  Trick question: there’s only one circle.

I know what you’re thinking: you’re thinking “whaaaaaa?”  But that’s what we’re here to help you with.  There’s been a whole lot of controversy and confusion over what now amounts to absolutely nothing.  The New Jersey Department of Education introduced a new attendance policy over the summer and then recently rescinded it after a legislative committee review.  No ridiculous rules about unexcused field trips, no scorned illnesses, none of the uproar and disappointment of a deprived senior class.  Just a lot of hoopla about the same old attendance policy.

For those of you ignorant of the latest in attendance trends, this new state policy was set to more stringently define excused absences.  Even calls from parents and signed doctor’s notes would not merit an excused absence; rather, such absences would be deemed unexcused without truancy.  Truancy is any unauthorized absence from compulsory education, which the New Jersey Department of Education finds “can lead to low academic achievement, school dropout, delinquency and gang involvement.”  The difference between the two types of unexcused absences was never really clarified, since the state repealed its policy before the WW-P School Board figured out how to turn the state regulation into district policy. All this means for us is more bureaucratic confusion, and that’s indicative of a larger problem.  State education policy, especially in a place as diverse as New Jersey, should not be controlled at that level much at all—it should be a municipal responsibility.  This could make for more localized solutions to problems specific to certain districts.  It doesn’t take an education expert to know that Camden and Princeton have different pressing issues when it comes to truancy and attendance.  The legislative committee made the right choice in repealing the proposed statewide policy changes—each district has its own individual needs and concerns that should dictate policy.  It’s a waste of time and resources and really only creates more work for people like us who have to explain things above the din of confusion.  Let this be repeated again: in terms of attendance, nothing has changed.

So rest easy and sleep in, chronic vacationers and aspiring second semester seniors.  Your daily Dunkaccino is safe—for now.

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