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The Tide

The Student News Site of Richard Montgomery High School

The Tide

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The Tide

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MCPS launches new Attendance Action Plan

At+MCPS%2C+students+are+considered+chronically+absent+if+they+miss+over+18+days+of+school.+
Chloe Choi
At MCPS, students are considered chronically absent if they miss over 18 days of school.

Since the return to school after the COVID-19 pandemic, more MCPS students have been absent in their classes. This can cause students to miss vital school instruction, homework and tests that can pile up over time. There are various reasons for absenteeism, such as sickness or appointments, but MCPS has increased their focus on keeping students in school and attempted to stop the absenteeism which has risen after the pandemic.

MCPS’s fight against chronic absenteeism provoked the launch of the new Attendance Action Plan, labeled “All Together Now: In School Together, Learning Together, Achieving Together.” It is designed to promote school attendance by analyzing attendance data from schools across the county, creating individualized school goals, and spreading the message to raise awareness for absenteeism. MCPS defines chronic absenteeism as being absent, regardless of reason, for over eighteen days of school (10 percent of the school year).

The consequences [students] face for being absent are brought upon themselves.

— Cedric Wu

Currently, MCPS attendance policy considers fewer than 5 unexcused absences a “warning” and considers 5 or more unexcused absences a “danger of receiving a failing grade.” If a student receives a failing grade, there will be a mark on their semester grade to represent attendance failure. Three unexcused tardies translate to one one unexcused absence.

Though there is no true restriction on excused absences, if a student is absent on a consistent basis, regardless of reason, there will be parent notice. Excused absences also count toward chronic absenteeism, so being excused does not necessarily mean a student is off the hook.

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According to MCPS data from the the 2018-19 school year, before online school, 19.55 percent of students were chronically absent, whereas in the 2022-23 school year, 27 percent of students were chronically absent. That is almost an eight percent spike in students missing class.

This has become an issue throughout the US, as data from the White House shows that before COVID in the 2018-19 school year, 15 percent of public school students were chronically absent, whereas in the 2021-22 school year the amount doubled to 30 percent.

MCPS Superintendent Monifa B. McKnight said, “We believe that every student deserves equal opportunities to succeed academically, and regular school attendance is an important factor in achieving that.”

Spanish teacher, Laura Hodge, believes the rise in mental health struggles among students has something to do with the absences, and she explains why being in-school is so important.

“I think we’re talking about mental health issues more [since COVID] and students don’t feel like they can handle or cope with going to school, so staying home maybe feels like a safer option,” Ms. Hodge said.

Since COVID, MCPS created a virtual academy for students who decided that learning from home made for a more effective learning environment. However, virtual learning was also a struggle for some, where staring behind a screen for hours was demanding and difficult. Ms. Hodge believes students deserve the in-person connection.

“I think students need to come to school because us teachers know what we’re doing, with years of experience. The teacher is better than the book or the article you read online and when you’re in school, you get that connection, not just with your teacher, but with classmates as well, all learning,” Ms. Hodge said. 

One difference between the Maryland state law and MCPS policy now is that Maryland state law considers twenty days in a school year chronic absenteeism, while MCPS has made the limit 18 days. 

Parent involvement is an important part of the action plan. MCPS wants counselors and administrators to reach out to parents with absent children every three to five days of continuous absences to ensure they are supported and that they will return to school when they are able. 

Some RM students believe it’s the students responsibility to catch up when they miss class.

“It’s on the students if they miss class and it’s up to them on how they react or deal with it,” he said. “The consequences [students] face for being absent are brought upon themselves,” sophomore Cedric Wu said. 

Students aren’t so sure the plan will be very effective in improving students’ attendance at school. “I think the plan will not really help stop the absenteeism, because I’m convinced the data that will be collected won’t really be used and change much in the actual attendance,” Wu said.

Though not much has changed in the attendance policy itself, the action plan to combat chronic absenteeism is meant to effectively produce change in students’ attendance and enable students and families to succeed together.

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About the Contributors
Gavin Lewis, News and TidePod Contributor
Gavin Lewis is a Sophomore at Richard Montgomery and is elated to be writing for the Tide this year! This is his first year writing as a News Editor and TidePod contributor. Outside of The Tide, he loves playing tennis, watching movies, and writing his own movie scripts. He is looking forward to writing entertaining and impactful stories, as well as informing the Richard Montgomery community on local, national and worldwide news!
Chloe Choi, Assistant Graphics Editor
Chloe Choi has been creating graphics for the Tide since her freshman year, and has also served as an assistant Business Manager and a Crosswords contributor. When she’s not drawing, she’s either looking at birds, stressing over the daily NYT crossword, or reading a good Wikipedia article.