A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!
In today's NOW:
Parents whose children are habitually late to school face being ticketed $172 for allowing tardiness, as part of the Wauwatosa School District's efforts to improve attendance rates. Go to story
Before I shift into cranky mode, let me say this: it’s really important for kids to be on time for school, and for people of all ages to be on time, especially if there is a whisper of a chance of inconveniencing others. Tardiness is a bad habit, and it disrupts classroom functioning.
But nowhere in the article “Better on time than late” does it make clear what reducing tardies has to do with improving attendance rates. Last I checked, kids who were tardy still attended school. It’s absences and truancies that affect attendance rates.
The procedure: if your elementary school kid is tardy five times, the classroom teacher phones home. After 15 tardies, parents get called into the principal’s office. If they fail to conform, the police come in to advise them that “legal steps” could be taken. That’s the threat of a $172 ticket.
Karen Zimmerman, school social worker, said “We don’t want this to seem
punitive. We want to help.” I’m sure she
does: she’s a very wonderful person and a real asset to the school
However, the policy IS punitive. There’s no positive reinforcement going on here. The policy doesn’t seem to include the “zero tardies” best practice of rewarding kids (and their families) for being on time. It’s a punishment. (For additional things Oregon is doing to reduce tardies, go here and scroll down to "Hot Topics.")
Twenty times is an astonishing number of times to be tardy. It’s hard to imagine being tardy that often. But as a divorced parent, I also know that one parent can’t control the behavior of another parent. I can imagine people running into conflicts there.
And as a parent of a kid who had a lot of chronic health problems in one year, I’ll never forget how sickened, not “helped,” I felt when I got a threatening form letter from the school. No phone call, no "how is he/she doing," just a threatening letter signed by a machine.
The bottom line behind this slightly confusing punishment policy for tardiness masquerading as help for attendance? Roosevelt principal Frank Calarco said, "We want (our attendance rate) to be better. We strive for excellence in everything."
So it’s not really education or help at the bottom of this approach. It’s improving a school performance stat that affects how the district looks at the school and its leadership.
That’s okay. But let’s call it what it is. Punishment.