Our Turn: Teachers can’t teach if students don’t show up

A PeeDeePost.com editorial

Dr. Cindy Goodman launched a pre-emptive strike late last month against the debut of the School Report Card, released Thursday. The superintendent knew it was likely Richmond County Schools wouldn’t be painted in a positive light, and guess what? She was right.

Since Goodman took over for the retired Dr. George Norris — officially on Aug. 5, 2014 but dating back to June 26, when the board appointed her on an interim basis — she has maintained that student achievement and student attendance are priories 1 and 1A.

Click on image for larger version. These figures show student attendance, by school, for the first two academic semesters.

Click on image for larger version.
These figures show student attendance, by school, for the first two academic semesters.

The scores released Thursday, coupled with attendance data released at the request of The Pee Dee Post on the same day, show an alarming correlation. Simply put, it can’t be a coincidence. While the Charlotte Observer’s coverage showed a connection between lower-performing schools and poverty, one factor not considered in the School Report Cards is student attendance.

It’s pretty basic: If the students aren’t in the classroom, the teacher — no matter how effective he or she might be — can’t do any good. And if the students aren’t in the classroom, the teacher — no matter how ineffective he or she might be — can’t be blamed.

The statistics are alarming. For the first two nine-week academic periods, the second of which ended Jan. 21, consider that 42.8 percent of the students in Richmond County Schools have been absent 10 or more days.

* 35.7 percent of elementary students have missed at least 10 days
* 37.7 percent of middle school students have missed at least 10 days
* 55.3 percent of high school students have missed at least 10 days
* 74.6 percent of alternative school students have missed at least 10 days

Districtwide, 42.8 percent — more than 4 of every 10 students — have missed at least 10 days.

Goodman also noted the district’s strategies for improving attendance, some of which include including attendance goals in school improvement plans and increasing systematic community with families at all levels — teachers, counselors, social workers, principals, etc. In addition, principals share strategies each month at leadership meetings on how they are working to improve attendance. These sessions help spread effective ideas, such as:

* Incentives, rewards and recognitions
* NBA Club (Never Been Absent)
* brag tags
* drawings for shirts, bicycles, headphones
* strategies for building awareness of good attendance, such as putting signs outside and ConnectEd messages.

Goodman said schools have instituted a policy of having parents sign in and out their students with a counselor or principal after a pattern of frequently arriving tardy or leaving school early in order to bring awareness to parents.

The most effective teacher can't if students don't show up.

The most effective teacher can’t if students don’t show up.

We might disagree with the superintendent on the validity of some of the elements measured in the School Report Cards. We also feel that, despite moving targets and changing standards, it’s also better to have some gauge of performance and success rather than no gauge at all. It’s good for public discussion, and if that helps keep the focus of student achievement — and all related things — front and center, then it’s well worth the effort.

On the other hand, the best-funded, most effective teacher in the world is nothing more than an individual if the students don’t show up.

Each PeeDeePost.com editorial is an opinion piece that aims to serve the greater good. It’s message does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any individual who works with The Pee Dee Post.

Filed in: Latest Headlines, Opinion

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  • Tony Ridgeway

    Can you please name the members of your editorial board? I follow the Post on Facebook and understand that it’s a one-man operation, but your explanation at the end makes me curious. Great idea to involve the community in writing editorials!

  • Raven Gordon

    Once Richmond County high school make education a priority over athletics then maybe kids will want to learn. This is why the failing grade this year. Throwing a ball or running on a field don’t build community or feed a family. It is all about the trophies in the hallway and not about academics in this school.

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