Dear PHS Parents,
As you may be aware, schools across Arizona and beyond deal with excessive student absenteeism. Dozens of students miss 10 or more days of classes each semester. This impacts student learning, places additional pressure on teachers to help students catch up, results in student loss of credit, and reduces graduation rates. Based on consultation with and positive feedback from our PHS leadership teams, Site Council, and faculty, PHS has implemented the following Attendance Incentive program.
Students who have 3 or fewer absences and NO unexcused absences, as well as 3 or fewer tardies in any specific class for a semester AND who have a passing grade for the semester may have the option of being exempted from the final exam for that PHS-only class. (Dual enrollment classes and CTED classes have separate requirements, and cannot be included in this exemption.)
If you have questions about this, please see the Frequently Asked Questions, below.
Q: Is this type of incentive offered at other schools?
A: Absolutely. A number of schools nationwide offer this type of incentive for students to attend class more regularly, and have seen a culture shift toward students avoiding unnecessary absences.
Q: Why allow a student the option to skip a final exam as a reward for exemplary attendance?
A: The main reason is of course to reduce unnecessary absences at PHS. Students who attend nearly every class generally learn much better than those do not, and they establish habits for success in life. The option to be exempt from a final exam is a special incentive for those who show special commitment to attendance. Students who earn an exemption in a class may still have the option of taking the final exam to be calculated into their semester grade if they wish.
Q: Can this apply to classes that are taken online, that are taken as dual-enrollment with Yavapai College, or are taken in conjunction with Mountain Institute CTED?
A: No, this can only apply to classes taken in person at PHS, in courses that are exclusively under the purview of PHS.
Q: Will not taking some or even most semester final exams at PHS negatively impact a college-bound student?
A: ⦁ This is unlikely. PHS students will still take many, many other major tests in their PHS classes.
- It is also probable that even students with excellent attendance will take certain final exams: Dual enrollment, CTE, and online classes still require final exams, and students who are close to a higher grade in any class will want to take the final exam even if they qualify to opt out.
- AP class tests, ACT, SAT, AzMERIT and many other tests also provide ample additional opportunity for high-stakes testing. No research indicates that high school students are not tested enough.
Q: Is there research data to show the impact that missing school has on students’ achievement?
A: ⦁ Missing an average of only 2 days per month has a statistically significant negative impact on
academic performance. Excused and unexcused absences have the same negative effect.
- Employers cite poor attendance as one of the top reasons for dismissal from jobs, and excellent job attendance as one of the most desirable qualities in an employee.
- Excessive absences in the spring are highly correlated with lower achievement on standardized tests.
- By 6th grade, chronic absence becomes a leading indicator that a student will drop out of high school.
- Half of students who miss 2+ days in August go on to miss nearly a month of the school year.
- If a student is 10 minutes late to school each day, this adds up to missing more than 33 hours of class time each year.
- A student with a 90% attendance average for Kindergarten through 12th grade will miss well over a year of accumulated time in the classroom!
Q: So, is PHS encouraging students who are very ill or potentially contagious to come to school?
A: No. For most students, there are absolutely occasional days when it is necessary to miss school. A student could potentially miss up to 6 days a year for illness or other reasons, and still qualify for this incentive each semester. If students are very ill and/or may have a contagious illness, they must stay home to recover before returning to school. However, we are asking for your support to greatly reduce avoidable absences. Some days students miss school because they “don’t feel like” coming to school, or because it’s more convenient for a family to schedule their vacation or appointments on school days. These optional absences not only hinder students’ academic performance, they reinforce habits that will not serve students well in the future.
Q: Is it possible for a student to earn this exemption option in some of their classes, but not earn it in other classes?
A: Yes. The total absences and tardies for each class are calculated separately from other classes.
Q: When a student is marked present for school, but misses a class due to a school approved field trip or sports event, does this count against a student’s total of absences?
A: No. Students who are in attendance at school-sponsored events have never been counted as absent from school during those events.
Q: What about medically excused or other excused absences?
A: To avoid having to discriminate between what actual school absences should “count” and which should not for this incentive, three absences of any kind per semester will be the limit. Taking a final exam is not a punishment, and will allow the student to show their mastery of concepts in spite of missed class time. Students who can document that their absences were due to a chronic or emergency medical issue may appeal to PHS administration to have medical absences waived for purposes of this incentive. Appeals may also be considered for absences due to weather emergencies.
Q: If a student earns and chooses the option to be exempt from the final exam for a class, how will their final semester grade in that class be calculated?
A: Instead of the semester grade being based on 40% for one quarter grade, 40% for the other quarter grade, and 20% for the final exam; each quarter grade will be worth 50% of the semester grade. Students who earn an exemption in a class may still have the option of taking the final exam to be calculated into their semester grade (40%-40%-20%) if they wish.
Q: Which days are counted to determine if a student qualifies for the Attendance Incentive?
A: EVERY day of the semester prior to final exams is counted to determine if a student qualifies for the Attendance Incentive. Only the actual final exam days are not counted for the Incentive.
Q: Should students attend school during a final exam session for a class in which they have earned and chosen to not take the final exam?
A: Students are always encouraged to attend school. However, for a student who has qualified for the Attendance Incentive, missing class the day of the final exam will not have a serious impact on their attendance record. For students not taking a final exam in a class, most parents will choose to excuse their child from the final class of the year. For any students who are not taking final exams but who attend on those days, they will study or read quietly in their classroom.