At Bristol Eastern High School, nearly 500 first quarter grades were lowered because students missed class or showed up late.
At Bristol Central High School, teachers are not allowed to take off points for tardiness or poor attendance, though officials discovered five of them had mistakenly done so anyway.
Board of Education members decided recently they didn’t mind have two different procedures in place, one at each school, and opted to let each continue to do whatever seems best for its students.
“We should let the high schools deal with this themselves,” said Karen Vibert, a school board member. “If we do it ourselves, we’d be micromanaging.”
The principals of each of the high schools said that only about 6 percent of students are chronic problems. These students, they said, are well known to administrators, teachers, counselors and others who are trying to keep them on the path to graduation.
V. Everett Lyons, the principal at Bristol Eastern High School, said that 52 percent of his teachers don’t take off points for attendance issues.
Of those who do, nearly half the effected grades are in physical education and about 20 percent are in music classes, which depend heavily on band and choir members showing up.
Three first period teachers in the two subjects were the most stringent, Lyons said.
He also said that most of the problems with getting to class on time occur first period and in the classes that go to lunch in the middle of a long period, with parts of the class both before and after lunch. Students tend to straggle back late from the cafeteria, Lyons said.
He said the four minutes that students have between classes is not a problem, In fact, he said, it used to be three minutes “back in the dark ages, when love lives were not as involved.”
“Kids were faster” back a couple of decades ago, Lyons joked.
Martin Semmel, the principal at Central, said that when he checked on the new policy barring teachers from penalizing for attendance, he discovered five teachers who were still doing it.
“That should not be happening,” Semmel said. Only one tech education teacher had socked many grades, however.
Semmel said the students who pose a problem in terms of attendance should be getting detention, talks with guidance counselors and discussions with parents.
But, he admitted, the new policy at Central hasn’t made a dent in the tardiness of students.
The only thing that has helped, Semmel said, was for administrators to stand in the front hall at the beginning of school and hand out detentions as students come in late.
When they did that, “the kids were moving much quicker” because they knew there would be immediate consequences for failing to be in class, Semmel said.
The problem is that “it’s hard to keep something up like that,” Semmel said.
In the first quarter of this school year at Bristol Eastern High School, 484 of 8,884 class grades were lowered to reflect attendance problems.
In five cases, the grade dropped by 31 or more points.
In 17 cases, it dropped between 21 and 30 points.
In 71 cases, it was lowered 11 to 20 points.
In 385 cases, grades fell by 10 or fewer points.
In six cases, the grade did not change though attendance was considered.
Nearly all of the students lost points from physical education or music classes or from three other teachers who proved especially tough.
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Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org