Is it really necessary to attend school?
How often does a student need to attend class to receive credit for that course? That is not a rhetorical question. Recent reports show that some students in Montgomery County Maryland high schools have attended class only 60% of the time and yet have earned credit for that course. How can that be? Isn’t it necessary to be in class in order for the student to learn the course content?
I think the answer is yes and no.
First of all many high school students miss school because of family responsibilities. Some kids have jobs to help their families survive day-to-day. Some kids take care of younger siblings so that both parents can work. Are these good reasons to miss school? Well it depends on just how critical that student’s contribution to the family's economy is.
Some kids miss school because they are bored to death. The required pacing guides mean that teachers can’t stay on a topic longer than needed because they have another topic to do on another day. That also means, teachers can’t dig deeper into a topic if students are really interested or curious. Tomorrow is another day in the pacing guide. Each day’s curriculum is carefully laid out. Like Goldilocks, teachers can’t go too fast or too slow; they need to get it just right. Smart kids can miss school, come back later, and as with a soap opera, know just where the story is going.
The issue is not whether it is terrible that some kids are graduating this June after having missed 40% of their classes, the issue is why are these kids missing so much school and why don’t we look to see if there are things we can do about that.
On the other hand, maybe the answer is that kids don’t really need to be in school all that much in order to master the material as it is currently being delivered to them. One of the students who attends school regularly, complained that it was not fair that the students who missed so much school were going to get the same diploma he was getting and he went to school every day. That boy is totally missing the point of going to school. While it is true that both kids might get the same piece of paper, it is also true that each student is getting a totally different education. Hopefully the boy who attended school every day had learning experiences that far exceeded those of the boy who was absent a great deal. State regulation says that students need to meet the aggregate time requirement of the local school system necessary to earn the credit. Some school districts have moved away from a set number of hours and instead use an academic standard. If one looks at the situation from that perspective, maybe some kids only need to be in school 60% of the time. Then again, that premise presumes that all we learn we learn in school. Maybe we can learn as much or more without being in school.