It’s true. Starting this school year, S.C. public-school students will be counted as absent if they miss at least half of the school day, regardless of whether they have an excuse.
However, parents need not panic about the doctor’s appointments and other out-of-class obligations you have scheduled for your children.
The new definition of absence, part of a recent change in federal law, will be used to determine if a student chronically is absent in the eyes of the federal government.
The thinking goes: students who are chronically absent from school – regardless of whether they have an excuse – tend to struggle academically. The reporting changes are intended to get school districts and schools to work harder to keep kids at school.
However, nothing is changing in South Carolina about how absences are counted to determine whether a student gets credit for a course or is allowed to graduate to the next grade level, S.C. Department of Education spokesman Ryan Brown said.
Students ages 6 to 17 who have three consecutive, unexcused absences – or who miss five days a semester or 10 in a school year – will be considered truant, which is the policy now, according to the Education Department. Truancy can lead to a student failing classes or the school year, Brown said.
However, parents of students who miss a lot of school, for whatever reason, likely will feel more pressure from school administrators to make sure their children are in school as much as possible.
School districts also likely will rethink what they when students who are missing too much class.
“We will definitely see a lot of districts making changes to ensure that students are in school” and not chronically absent, Brown said.
Before the law change, students who showed up to school were counted as present for federal reporting purposes regardless of how much of the school day they had missed.
Now, those students must be in school for more than half of the school day, which means S.C. districts could be reporting more absences.
School-related activities and instruction that takes place outside of school will not count toward the federally reported absences, Brown said. “Our No. 1 goal is to ensure that our kids are in school, every day, on time, as much as possible.”