The student news site of Adlai E. Stevenson High School


The student news site of Adlai E. Stevenson High School


The student news site of Adlai E. Stevenson High School


Administrative Absence

Staffers call for concrete solutions to chronic absenteeism

It’s 4:32 a.m., and after guzzling two Celsius and a Five-Hour Energy, you just can’t seem to cram in every piece of information you want to. As you keep revising definitions and formulas, nothing seems to stick, and you feel “locked out.” At the point when your brain cannot seem to absorb any more information, your mind wanders, and you begin to ask yourself: Am I prepared for the test tomorrow? As the hours before the test dwindles down, your worries turn into pleas: “I need to get called out.” 

Following the pandemic, a rise in chronic absenteeism has spread throughout the country, with more schools struggling to keep classrooms full. In Stevenson, recent data shows an alarming increase in chronic absenteeism from 10.9 percent in 2018 to 25.2 percent in 2023. 

Many attribute this extreme rise in absenteeism to students ditching school and the perceived lower value of in-class educational systems. Reports show that after the COVID-19 pandemic, absenteeism was attributed to another factor: wellness. As students begin to realize they can catch up on work through online mediums such as Canvas, Google Classroom, or the endless world of YouTube, they are able to catch themselves up on material they’ve missed. As a result, they feel that they can miss school and have the tools to stay up to date with their work, which wasn’t a luxury available prior to the E-learning and online transition protocols. 

As opposed to students attending school with illness, they are now more willing to miss school to prioritize their health when necessary. In light of this, the increased access to online educational resources is not something that should be seen in a negative light. In fact, access to more educational material is inherently better for students and schools alike, because it allows students to pace themselves and be more flexible with their learning. This also allows teachers to grant their students greater autonomy in their learning practices. 

The fundamental goal of any school is for their students to leave every class with more confidence in the topic at hand. Unfortunately, this priority has been lost in the era of Gimkits, quirky class-themed Wordles, and universal disdain for the simple lecture. Although we recognize that student engagement and classroom interactivity are important, the priority of class time should not be education through entertaining but ineffective mediums. Rather, we believe that there is more value to lectures, lab-based learning, and independent consultations with teachers to clarify concepts than team-building activities.  Often, these gamified classroom activities take the focus away from content to be entertaining, leaving students less prepared for tests, and more likely to ditch them.

An overarching reason for the rise in absenteeism is the fear of scoring poorly on exams, which prompts many students to turn to unexcused absences, or to convince parents to call them out of school. While many students do have justified reasons for missing school, those that skip plague the reputations of those truly affected by illness, making efforts to increase fairness in the system increasingly challenging. 

In response to this rise in absenteeism, many propose that the consequences for students should be determined by the educator, with teachers being responsible for handling makeup materials, exams, and determining whether the absence was malicious or benign. Calls for empathy and understanding are often invoked as solutions, but lack meaningful substance to solve an issue as complex as student absenteeism. With students continuing to miss exams and class time under more empathetic teachers, we believe student-teacher communication should be an expectation, and communicating ahead of time about absences is valuable. However, we also believe that a more effective deterrent is increased collaboration between Student Support Team’s (SST) and academic departments.

We recognize the challenges that differentiating between a genuine and invalid absence can pose to administrators, but this issue can be solved through increased SST’s awareness on important summative tests, and the creation of alternative tests for students who intentionally skip in-class exams. 

Punishing students who miss exams with LOPs and detentions is counterproductive because students want to be prepared to take exams, and the fear and doubt in their own capabilities should be gradually reformed, not immediately penalized. Rather, teachers should have a different, more challenging test for students who choose to miss the test day, as a means of incentivizing them to be present in class. By making class time more informative and out-of-class tests more difficult, students worried about their grades will understand that they need to be present in order to be successful.

But even with additional efforts to disincentivize skipping school, the intrinsic issue of our grading system makes it all too easy for students to relax during a unit of a course, or even the first half of a semester because they know that they can make up for it later on. 

We believe that EBR is one of the principal reasons behind the issue of absenteeism, as the system makes it far too easy for students to frequently skip school and bomb tests at the beginning of the semester. The consequence of EBR allows for students in some classes to indefinitely delay tests until the end of the semester without jeopardizing their grade, providing a perverse incentive for students to continue skipping assignments with the cushion of remediation whenever they see fit. 

Month-late tests should not be blindly accepted by teachers. When systems of communication exist between the SST and departments to determine the root cause behind a student’s absenteeism, teachers can safely impose limits on makeup test windows while being more lenient for those who communicate complex situations and genuinely need extensions.

Ultimately, COVID-19 still looms over the various facets of student life: the increase in technology use, the worsening of the mental health crisis, and the growth of absenteeism. While absences for the benefit of student physical and mental health should be highlighted and supported, curbing the epidemic of skipping culture is not possible simply through calls for empathy and harsher impositions on faculty and students. Through increased communication between all parties, incentives and deterrents for missed exams, and clearly defined guidelines that strengthen the EBR learning model, Stevenson can tackle absenteeism in a way that protects those who need days off, while ensuring that learning remains in the limelight.

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