Late to class

“Fed up with students routinely strolling into class well after the bell rings, high school principals across the region plan to crack down on excessive tardiness,” according to an article in today’s Boston Globe.

It’s not clear to me that this is really a new problem. Were there really significantly more students coming late to class last year than in previous years? Weston certainly has a real problem with lateness, especially in first-period classes, and especially with second-semester seniors, but I don’t think it was less severe in the past — unless we put on our rose-colored glasses.

More troubling is the list of proposed remedies, which range from pointless to ineffective. Detention never works.

At Arlington High School, teachers will more uniformly enforce the tardiness policy this year, and will be trained in November on how to talk to students about taking responsibility.

Tardy students may get extra assignments, face phone calls home, or serve detention after school, said the principal, Charles Skidmore. He voiced skepticism, however, that the penalties would be much of a help.

“There are some kids who have the attitude that whether it’s class or parties or school activities, that it begins when I get here. Kids nowadays see time as very fluid and flexible,” Skidmore said.

Extra assignments ? I thought that people realized long ago that it’s counterproductive to make students view homework as punishment. Anyway, Skidmore is right that it won’t help.

I don’t like the rewards approach either: at Needham High School avery student who shows up on time for every first-semester class will get a day off second semester. Then I suppose it’s the teacher’s responsibility to help the student catch up on the work missed during the day off.

The so-called research is also questionable. “Consistent tardiness is often a warning sign of bigger problems, education researchers say. Truant students are two to eight times more likely than others to become juvenile delinquents.” But surely this is mixing up cause and effect.

Categories: Teaching & Learning, Weston