Last school year, about 37 percent of students at Brunswick High and Glynn Academy missed 10 or more days of school.
That data, included in an attendance report presented this summer to the Glynn County Board of Education, highlights a challenge for Glynn County Schools’ administrators and staff, who understand what’s lost for a student every time he or she misses a day of class.
But the school system cannot, ultimately, make all students come to school.
“We really have very little control over it because it starts in the household,” said Jim Pulos, assistant superintendent for operations and administrative services for Glynn County Schools.
So this school year, both high schools plan to emphasize the importance of good attendance by implementing a new incentive to encourage students to miss fewer days of school.
The new “semester final exam exemption guidance” will allow students who meet high expectations to exempt the final semester exams. They will not be exempt from the end-of-course exams or end-of-pathway tests.
The change aims to improve regular school attendance and increase student responsibility, according to a draft of the proposal.
“Research has shown that good attendance by students promotes effective teaching and learning within the classroom as teachers are able to maintain a sound instructional focus and provide a positive learning environment for students when they attend class on a regular basis,” according to the draft.
To earn the exemption, students must receive high grades and maintain a low number of absences. They must also keep a high work ethic grade and not be assigned to ISS or OSS during the semester. The specific guidelines have been provided to teachers at both schools, Pulos said.
“If a student has a grade of 90 or above with five or fewer absences, they can exempt that final exam, which means they really don’t have to come to school for that period,” Pulos said.
It’s a trade off — miss that one period at the end of the semester, by coming to class more beforehand.
“It seems almost opposite, that we’re saying, ‘You don’t have to come,’” Pulos said. “But the fact of it is, if I can get them to come that much more, then I’ve helped them academically and I’ve helped them with all the other aspects of it, in the long term.”
The high schools incorporated work ethic grades into the curriculum a couple of years ago, and those grades will be factored into the exemption guidelines.
That grade ties well into the overall goals to the exemption offer, Pulos said, as it requires students to essentially be prepared for class. They must have their student IDs, must turn in assignments on time, avoid being late for class and more.
“None of those are hard to do, when you really think about it,” Pulos said. “Basically, you’re doing what you’re supposed to do. My experience has been that students who have that as a guidance will seek to meet that standard.”