Wednesday, July 8, 2020
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New tardy policy in Rockford is controversial

How does your high school handle students who arrive late, perhaps because they stop for coffee on the drive in, or who don’t have enough time during a five-minute passing period to get to their next class?

In Rockford, Illinois, students at East High School have a new tardy policy this year, reports Evelyn Soto in East Highlights, the student newspaper.

The first four times a student is late to class, he or she gets a warning, according to Assistant Principal Ryan Wlodek. The next time, it’s an after-school detention. The sixth and seventh tardies land a student in a “social intervention learning environment,” which means the student is temporarily excluded from class during the school day.

And if that still doesn’t eliminate the problem, students get an overnight suspension, which requires parents to bring them to school the next day for a check-in.

“I do not like this new policy,” the student newspaper quoted one junior as saying. “What if it’s your first time being absent and you’re a good student? It’s unfair, and it should only apply [for students] who are late regularly.”

Teachers have been instructed to lock their doors when the bell rings, allowing hall sweeps to collect students who didn’t make it to class on time and escort them down to the auditorium to have their tardy recorded and any punishment meted out.

“This tardy policy is something we don’t want to do,” Mr Wlodek was quoted as saying. But he added that it helps students be more successful and definitely teaches them to be on time.

Like it or not, Mr Wlodek says the policy has been effective at reducing the number of tardies. And not every student hates it.

“I’m always on time to class, so it doesn’t affect me,” the paper quoted another junior as saying. “I think this new policy is all right; it would help others to be on time for work or other important events.”

Tardy policies don’t get much attention across the country, but every school has one.

At the struggling Doss High School in Louisville, Kentucky, the new principal, Marty Pollio, has instituted an entire suite of new discipline policies, including revisions to the school’s tardy policy. And those changes are bringing some positive effects that teachers are noticing.

“Now we can teach, and that hasn’t always been the case,” the Courier-Journal quoted Sariena Sampson, who is in her fifth year of teaching at Doss, as saying. Mr Pollio and three new assistant principals he brought with him have put a focus on consistent expectations for both students and staff, she said. Prior to their arrival, discipline policies were often different from student to student. “What is happening here is magical.”

From an academic perspective, changes at Doss have included dividing students up into one of four separate career academies at the high school. Such a direction coming from a building principal tends to push teachers to be accountable but it also makes them feel like they have an administration that supports them.

Student engagement is the key, and students notice.

The paper quoted one junior as saying that the new principal’s policies put a focus on “bell-to-bell work,” meaning that students should be focused and working from the start of class to the end of it.

That student admitted to having a few tardies in the past but has become more focused on turning that around, especially given the new policy of sending students to in-school suspension after just three tardies.

“Mr Pollio is strict in a good way. He’s doing this to better us,” the student was quoted as saying. “This year, this school is not for playing around. (The new tardy policy) is because he wants us in the classroom.”

Students at Catalina Foothills High School in Tucson, Arizona, are also getting a taste of a new tardy policy this year. Students are sent to a tardy room, similar to the SILE policy at Rockford East, whenever they arrive at the school late for unexcused reasons.

“The program is simply designed to encourage and promote the importance of punctuality and commitment to our students who are on time and deserve an uninterrupted class the first hour of the day,” the Arizona Daily Star quoted Principal Angela Chomokos as saying. She told the paper the school of about 1,700 students recorded more than 7,000 tardies last year.

While students are in the tardy room, they aren’t even allowed to study, a rule modification that was put in place to prevent them from being late on purpose to finish homework they didn’t complete the night before. Although the tardy room has been effective at reducing the number of tardies, some parents really don’t like the “no studying” rule.

“I understand the need to discourage kids from being tardy, but it seems like there’s got to be a more constructive way of doing that,” one parent was quoted as saying.

During the passing periods, some school districts in Arizona occasionally do sweeps, the Daily Star noted. But for those types of tardies in the Sunnyside School District, students are promptly returned to class after they have been assigned detention, beginning with the first occurrence, a district spokeswoman said.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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