Study Session & Board Meeting – September 9, 2014

by Michelle Treadwell

Study Session

Rob Smith gave an overall report about how things are going thus far in the school year–transportation, facility management, etc. He said they need more support to handle work orders b/c they’ve added so many facilities.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, The board (& administrators) discussed “chronic absenteeism,” something states and districts are starting to look at & study.

They reviewed a U of U study showing that students who are “chronically absent” (for the study, this was 10% of school days, or about 18) are much more likely to not graduate from high school. They also discussed all the things that lead to absenteeism–family problems, kids not liking a teacher or school, health issues, transportation, parental support, language barrier, etc. They said parents also sometimes think that absences don’t matter in elementary school and/or if they are “excused” (by the parents).

At this point, Wendy Hart raised the following concerns:
1) We have to be very careful when talking about absences. We must differentiate between parent-excused absences and truancies.
2) “Chronic absenteeism” will show up on two extremes: kids who are chronically truant and those who do well in school and are excused by parents for family for educational reasons.
3) It’s starting to sound like the ABILITY TO BE AT SCHOOL trumps ALL ELSE, and that’s not true.
4) State law states that parents are primarily responsible for the education of their children.

Garrick Peterson, Administrator of Educational Services, said he thinks absenteeism is certainly one factor to consider, but it is only one factor. Someone in the administration (didn’t get his name) agreed and suggested that such information be used simply to alert teachers to those students who are chronically absent so they can make extra efforts to connect with the students–this is an informal, inexpensive intervention. Peterson agreed, stating that we want to use the information in a spirit of helping & not take it to a punitive place.

Board Meeting

Autumn Cook made some comments about “chronic absenteeism” (she had attended the study session, too). She commended the board for recognizing that absenteeism is a problem only in some situations & that it should not be punishable in all cases. Parents, as always, should make this final decision. She advised the board to not use absentee information more aggressively, as some states have done.

There was a LOT of discussion about the CDA for University Place in Orem. I don’t understand much of that, so I can’t really speak to it except to say that most board members seemed to support it and a couple really did not (difference in opinion whether the school board should invest money in retail projects).

A few other points…

— Wendy Hart brought up SAGE testing. She asked Judy Park (state assistant superintendent) to send her clarification & validation about what data security we have in place.
— Wendy asked the board who had read the AIR (the company that developed the SAGE tests for Utah) document that came back to Wendy from Judy (and Wendy passed on to the board). Brian Halladay and Paula Hill were the board members who had read the document. The three of them agree that they don’t see enough guarantees in place.
— Brian Halladay stated that AIR has to prove they are protecting data–the burden is on them, not on the board.
— Halladay also said that if we cannot prove the privacy of data, we HAVE to continue to let parents opt their children out of SAGE testing.

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One Response to Study Session & Board Meeting – September 9, 2014

  1. I find it interesting that no discussions were held regarding public schools contribution towards kids missing school.

    There are multiple peer reviewed studies which indicate that early start times, lack of sleep, and excessive testing contribute to heightened anxiety, stress, and illness.

    It’s easy for Boards to shine the light of blame on parents, but much more difficult to look themselves in the mirror.

    Correlation does not equate to causation.

    P.S. Wendy Hart and Mr.
    Halliday are rock stars.

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