Dilemma...

I'm curious how folks outside the teaching world view this... It is a current dilemma I am having right now with a pre-calc student.

The student is a freshman in pre-calculus, so he is working three years above grade level. Up until last week, he was sitting on a 90% A- in class. He bombed the last unit exam of the semester (63%), moving his overall grade to an 85% B. He has not yet seen this score. We have one grade left this semester - the semester final, which is 20% of his grade. A strong "A" would put him back an an "A" in the course. A zero would put him at a "D." The real benefit of the final, however, is that it forces kids to review their entire first semester of learning, helping to put it into their long term memories. Our first unit second semester builds directly on the material from the exam he just tanked.

The issue is this; He told me last week that his family is going on a vacation and he will miss all of finals week. According to school board policy and state law, this is NOT an excused absence, so I have not legal obligation to allow him to make up the exam and can be completely justified in giving him a "zero" and a "D" for the semester. At the same time, his parents planned the vacation and not him. Making it more difficult, I do not have a two hour block of time before I must turn in first semester grades to allow him to take a final.

Note: Were this an excused absence, the school would give him an "incomplete" for the semester and would provide a time for him to take the missed exams. This is not an option as the absence is not excused.

Thoughts?

Hard work builds character and homework is good for your soul.

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There is not time to take it before he leaves - He leaves tomorrow and Finals are Wed-Fri. Plus, the school does not allow it as we have had problems with kids who do this sharing test questions with their peers.

Hard work builds character and homework is good for your soul.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/21/2019 05:24PM by MFJohnston.
@MFJohnston wrote:


The issue is this; He told me last week that his family is going on a vacation and he will miss all of finals week. According to school board policy and state law, this is NOT an excused absence, so I have not legal obligation to allow him to make up the exam and can be completely justified in giving him a "zero" and a "D" for the semester. At the same time, his parents planned the vacation and not him. Making it more difficult, I do not have a two hour block of time before I must turn in first semester grades to allow him to take a final.

Note: Were this an excused absence, the school would give him an "incomplete" for the semester and would provide a time for him to take the missed exams. This is not an option as the absence is not excused.

What family plans a vacation knowing their child(ren) will miss all of finals week, an unexcused absence? Did the parents not know? Did they think school would be completed by then? Did they think it didn't matter? I'm guessing he will face this issue in all his classes, not just yours.. This may require involvement by the school's principal. Perhaps the principal should communicate with the parents about the position in which they have placed their child by scheduling this vacation. Since you do not have time to allow him to take a final before turning in grades, and, given it will be an unexcused absence, giving him a make up seems unfair to other students who will be expected to be present during exam week. Actions have consequences. Unfortunately, the parents' actions will have a consequence to the child.

Maybe as a non-parent and a non-teacher, I am being too strict, but I think the action of these parents have severely compromised their child. Death in the family/emergency is one thing. This is a PLANNED VACATION. If I were a friend or neighbor, I might think about reporting these parents to Child Protective Services.
The family should have known the school policy - they have been in the school district for some time and the information is given to them every year as a part of their "parent information." However, that information is so thick, it is not possible for a parent to remember every detail. It is also unreasonable to ask a principal to send out every policy individually. The information is readily online under our school district's attendance policies - stating that "family vacations are not excused absences." It is also a point that teachers hit every September when we talk about "excused" v. "unexcused" absences with kids.

At the same time, middle schools are generally very flexible when families make vacation plans. They usually tell the parents: "State Law says that this is not excused, but if you do your work ahead of time, it's not a big deal. High School is a different story."

Our school procedure for pre-arranged absences is this: Student gets a form form the office and fills it out. He takes it to each teacher for a signature. We sign that we have seen the form, but we do not have the power to "excuse" the absence. The student then turns the form in to the office, which turns it over to the principal. The principal then looks at teacher comments and then decides whether or not to excuse the student. I know that, as of Friday morning, the student had not turned the form in to the office. I emailed the principal to ask what obligation I had to allow the student to make up the final. She give me a one-word email reply, "none."

Hard work builds character and homework is good for your soul.
Hmmm..this is tough. Since he is normally an A to B student I think he should be allowed to make up the final. It isnt his fault his parents are selfish idiots.

Im not quite understanding why this isnt a excused abscence?

And I know its unorthodox, is there anyway he can be given the final over skype while he is on vacation?

I could see maybe being more strict if he was a trouble child or created this mess himself, but it doesnt sound like that is the case.

Shopping Idaho and Oregon/Idaho border region.
Reasons why this is not an excused absence: We created a "mid-winter break" in our district in February because many of our more affluent schools had an issue with families taking all sorts of family vacations during the winter months -but not during the holiday season - so that they could avoid holiday crowds. On average, each class had 4-5 kids absent every day for three months, all of whom expected to be given extra help by teachers to make up for lost learning. This was untenable. Moreover, that level of absenteeism makes it very, very difficult to run a classroom as there would not be a good continuity of learning for the class as a whole. Our district created an extra week of vacation (and extended the school year in June) in agreements with the PTSA so that families could take vacations at that time and not miss school. (Since then, Washington State made it clear that family vacations are not excused absences, though allowed individual schools to set more liberal policies.)

Here is the difficultly with letting him take the final later:
* We would then have to open the door to all students whose families take family vacations during finals week. It is illegal to give the right to a "good kid" but not to a "trouble-maker." This would put us back to the same place we were before we crated mid-winter break.
* We have a lot of kids and parents who would intentionally take such "vacations" as ways to earn extra study time.
* Who is going to proctor the exam?
* Giving a kid an exam while he is at Disney World... How would I get the timed 50 question multiple choice exam back and be able to grade it without being concerned about the integrity of the exam?

Hard work builds character and homework is good for your soul.
Yeah, it sounds like the student may have to reap the consequences of the parents' plans. At my school also, vacations are considered unexcused, and teachers may or may not offer a workaround. I think they rarely may make an exception for "once in a lifetime, not possible at any other time" requested far in advance situations, but not for a vacay. Hopefully the parents do not raise a stink. High school is a different world than MS. At least the kids has plenty of time to retake the class, if it comes to it.
I am leaning in this direction...Get the parents directly involved with me and in a conversation with the principal. Make it painfully clear that this is not acceptable. Make them suffer a little on vacation while pondering what the outcome would be. Then, after the vacation, let them know that the final would be excused, but that, should it ever happen again, the school would give him "zeros" on all his finals.

Hard work builds character and homework is good for your soul.
@dawnhu wrote:

Hmmm..this is tough. Since he is normally an A to B student I think he should be allowed to make up the final. It isnt his fault his parents are selfish idiots.

And I know its unorthodox, is there anyway he can be given the final over skype while he is on vacation?

So....are you saying ANY child who says his parents scheduled a vacation during finals week should be allowed to make up the final? Or are you saying an A/B student should get special treatment over and above a C/D student? And if one child is allowed to be given an exam over skype while he says he is on vacation (although the parents have not collaborated this), might not every child in the class deserve the option of taking the exam over skype from home or vacation if they choose?

Unless I am misunderstanding, MF's info seems to come only from the child. Do I correctly understand that there has been no communication from the parents regarding this vacation? With no collaboration - this is something the child has said - that his parents scheduled a vacation during finals week and he is being taken and he has no choice but to miss finals?

And this comes after he recently bombed his last section exam. Maybe I'm overly suspicious because I was once a scheming youngster, but it sounds like something else may be going on. I wonder if his grades in other classes besides MF's have also fallen. Something serious may be going on. Or, this may truly be something his parents are doing. No way to tell without hearing from the parents.
Yikes the situation sucks..has this particular student been absent before this? I did forget that there is one more semester to go...if this semester ends with a D? Is it possible for him to get an A or B next semester for this same class next semester if he retakes this class and erase the D essentially or does it stay on his transcripts?

And I think my comments were misintrepreted with the troubled kid..I meant troublemaker as in disruptful in class, a cheater, absent all the time.

I didnt mean someone less well off...

Shopping Idaho and Oregon/Idaho border region.
@MFJohnston wrote:

I am leaning in this direction...Get the parents directly involved with me and in a conversation with the principal. Make it painfully clear that this is not acceptable. Make them suffer a little on vacation while pondering what the outcome would be. Then, after the vacation, let them know that the final would be excused, but that, should it ever happen again, the school would give him "zeros" on all his finals.

I just read MF's post after my last post. TOTALLY agree that teacher, principal and parents need to talk.
To clarify:
The parents did sign the "pre-arranged absence form." I have had no other contact with the parents. I cannot say if they have had contact with admin. I did tell the student, when he first brought the form to me, that this is something that needed discussion with the principal as missing all of finals week was a big deal. Whether or not the parents contacted her is a different question.

I do not believe that this is a scheming student. He bombed the test after telling me about the vacation and still has not seen the test score. It's also the first of our two trigonometry units - two of the tougher units we have.

Hard work builds character and homework is good for your soul.
The student has a good attendance record... The first semester grade has no bearing on second semester outside of missed learning . ... A "D" will stay on his transcript forever. However, he could retake the course in summer school or next year and replace the "D" in his GPA calculation. (He's have a "D" on his transcript this year and (potentially) an "A" over the summer. Both would be on his transcript, but only the "A" would be calculated into his GPA.

I understood your comments about troubled kid. The point is that we cannot have one set of "excused absence" rules for one kid, but not another - no matter the reason. It is specifically illegal to punish a student academically for poor behavior. (i.e. using "behavior" as a portion of a student's grade... excusing or not excusing absences.)


@dawnhu wrote:

Yikes the situation sucks..has this particular student been absent before this? I did forget that there is one more semester to go...if this semester ends with a D? Is it possible for him to get an A or B next semester for this same class next semester if he retakes this class and erase the D essentially or does it stay on his transcripts?

And I think my comments were misintrepreted with the troubled kid..I meant troublemaker as in disruptful in class, a cheater, absent all the time.

I didnt mean someone less well off...

Hard work builds character and homework is good for your soul.
Did he meet a girl? Are there other, undisclosed family issues?

Speaking as an engineer who has taken many calculus classes, there is a reason why his grades have plummeted. He is not studying for a reason.

The internet doesn't make you smart. It makes you good at regurgitation.
The parents are responsible for seeing that their child gets an education, and giving it priority status. If they choose to disregard the importance of finals’ week, that’s their prerogative. As parents, they should be aware, and teach their son, that actions have consequences. As their son is taking an AP course(s), they should also be aware of grades, finals and processes. Meeting with them is a courtesy, made in the best interest of the student. Hopefully, they will knock their heads and say ‘what were we thinking?’, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Summer school is an option. Not a great option for a kid, but that’s on his parents.
I am only sure he does not deserve an F, and does deserve to make it up...yes to speaking with the parents and if he could re-take test, that seems fair. Student may be having some problems either in family or personal...give him a chance, if only because he was an A student without missing classes, that has to mean something. I lean on the student's side, but know the parents should not have planned a vacation at this time, certainly not the students fault. Skype sounds like an answer even if he is on vacation.

Don't cry because it happened, smile because it's over....
A standard of reasonableness for consequences for parents who plan, scheme, and/or plot the variously defined vacation for finals week and keep the student out of school and away from tests for that time frame would be... Hmm... you can't send them back to the previous grade; you can't make them sit on a stool and wear a dunce cap; you can't plan a vacation for them which keeps them away from their work, friends, and social lives; you can't hire an investigator to find out what else might be happening with their lives...

Seriously. Are other teachers allowed to share information with you about the student's experiences in their classes? How much of a team can the teachers make along with admin, if necessary?

We may pass violets looking for roses. We may pass contentment looking for victory. - Bernard Williams
@MFJohnston states:

"The point is that we cannot have one set of "excused absence" rules for one kid, but not another - no matter the reason."

Enough said. This falls to the parents, as well. A rule is a rule is a rule. It is unfortunate to me the parents put their child in this position.
I really feel badly for the student, through no fault of his, he will not get the score he could have gotten. I have a friend whose daughter WAS a teacher and she and her husband decided they wanted a trip to Hawaii, so instead of waiting a couple months for summer, she said she was sick and left during school time, and her idiot husband posted this with pictures on Facebook.....she got fired by someone who saw it.....rules are rules.

Don't cry because it happened, smile because it's over....
How about letting the parents and the child know of the options/consequences. Parents may decide to leave the kid behind, with a grandparent (if that's an option) or via some other arrangement so that he stays and takes the test and the parents go on the vacation. Or one parent comes back early from the vacation with the kid or goes later with the kid.
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