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Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Answer to Attendance Problems: Early-Morning Phone Calls by School

By Rachel Lomot

Fall River – Chronically absent students at various high schools around the country are now receiving morning phone calls to encourage them to get up and get moving.  B.M.C Durfee High School has brought the issue to light with their new policy enacted on Wednesday, March 8.

Starting Wednesday, if a student at Durfee High School has been absent more than 5 days in a 45-day term, they will receive a prerecorded wake-up call at 6:15 a.m. from Principal Marshall.
Many schools are beginning to explore this tactic. In Anaheim, California, schools are using a GPS-monitoring system to keep tabs on students with four or more unexcused absences. And New York City launched a “Wake Up! NYC’’ campaign last month using recorded wake-up messages from celebrities such as Magic Johnson in order to motive the students.  Other schools in Boston are having the teachers personally call the students at 6:15 a.m.

When questioned about starting this new policy Principal Marshall answered, “It starts at home, and that is the responsibility of the students and their parents. All we’re asking for from the families is that they pick up the phone and let us know what’s going on.”

However, will these phone calls work?  When Framingham High School students were asked whether they would answer a phone call, there was a conclusive answer: no.  Daren Wynn, an FHS student, replied, “I wouldn’t listen, I would just keep sleeping.”  Even when questioned about the celebritiy voices Wynn stated, “Well if it was a celebrity, I’d listen, but I wouldn’t get up.”

At Framingham High School the punishment for tardiness and being absent is a Saturday school.  Wynn claimed that Saturday school is a worse punishment.  However, Becca Alter remarked that “The phone calls would be worse because they would get annoying.”  She continued, “After a while I would listen, but I still do not think it’s appropirate.”

In The Herlad News, Marshall claims that this is a more productive way of reaching out to the students. He does not “want to punish students who do not attend school as regularly as they should, fearing a cycle of suspensions and detentions might further push students away from school.”

Mr. Welch, principal of Framingham High School, has considered this option.  The ConnectED system at FHS is capable of doing this.  Mr. Welch is “hopeful we can get this to happen next year.”  He believes this system will bring forth more merits than complaints.

According to Mr. Welch Saturday schools are an “after the fact punishment rather than a proactive attempt to get kids to school.”  The goal is to get students at school for the admistrators.  Saturday schools are not seen as a “universally effectice way in increasing attendece,” says Welch, and “nothing really is.”

However, parents of FHS students seem to agree with their children. When asked whether they thought the phone calls at 6:15 a.m. were appropriate, the majority claimed they would rather wake up their children on their own.  Some prior notification to the problem is all the majority of the parents asked for.

Administrators at Durfee High School are trying to bring up their attendence to 95 percent.  Whether it will work or the students and parents will simply ignore it cannot be known quite yet. 

Schools around the country are taking action.  The answer to attendence may be simply annoying the students enough until they finally listen.