Letters to the Editor: February 25 – March 3, 2021
Excused Civic Absences Can Still Lead to Learning Deficits
It’s easy to be thrilled that the Fairfax County School Board has made class time missed for civic reasons an excused absence. But let’s think about this a moment.
I admit that I attended my high school class 50th reunion, but I’ve spent many of the years since then in the community college classroom. My wife also taught in the Fairfax County Schools. When we were in high school, excused absences were hard to come by. Death in the family? Excused. Serious illness? Of a family member? Unexcused. Of the student? Clear symptoms were required. Participation in a school sponsored activity? Excused. Some years ago, however, these requirements were loosened: If parents knew about it and called in, it was an excused absence. Even the family vacation to Disney World was excused. The standards have loosened considerably. Students arrive in college believing that if they “explain” an absence, it’s okay. They won’t be penalized. They’ll get extra time to finish assignments. The problem with this is that no one seems to think about the fact that an absence mean that the student was not present for instruction, and states measure instructional time in hours and minutes. If parents and students measured it in the same way, perhaps it would be more precious to them and they’d hesitate to miss so much of it. The absences do add up, and sooner or later they become self-penalizing.
Maybe I’m just a cranky retired professor, but I wish students were learning that being out of class, regardless of whether the absence is excused, means instruction irretrievably missed. I’m not opposed to students being active in civic affairs, but as laudable as that is, it comes at a cost that has to be considered.
Via the internet
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