Every parent knows the symptoms (runny nose, fever, coughing, chills) that can keep a child feeling miserable for a day or two. But should you keep the child home or give him some Motrin and send him to school anyway? Many kids ask to go to school even if they’re not feeling well because they want to earn a Certificate of Attendance. In other words, in many schools, if kids attend school every day for the entire year, they are rewarded.
Award plaques provide students something tangible to proudly display at home. This is a good thing, right? Not always, especially if kids are going to school while contagious. Some argue that Certificates of Attendance encourage the spread of disease in schools, but that is not the real issue; it is the all-or-nothing mentality that surrounds attendance goals.
Avoiding all illness is impossible, and students shouldn’t feel like they lost a competition just because they caught pink eye. Being at school every day, regardless of illness, is unrealistic and teaches children to make their health a low priority. The best solution is for schools to keep giving award certificates but scratch that all-or-nothing mindset. Kids should be awarded for generally high attendance or improved attendance. This way a child who is sick at the beginning of the school year will not be discouraged because he or she has no chance at winning the award.
So why is attendance such a big deal? Starting as early as kindergarten, attendance patterns have far-reaching consequences and can predict a student’s success. When students are absent frequently they fall behind in academics. Those students are more likely to cause problems in their communities and run into trouble with the law. Additionally, some schools set their budgets based on average daily attendance. When poor attendance becomes the norm, some schools lose the ability to fund essential classroom needs.
For these reasons, early intervention is important. Award plaques are positive tools to better ensure a bright future for children, but there needs to be exceptions for illness, family emergencies, and other unexpected events. Let’s keep high attendance a priority without alienating the kids who experience events out of their control. We can eliminate the all-or-nothing approach, and make Certificates of Attendance a meaningful prize every student wants to earn in a healthier manner. Share this blog with your school’s administration and other parents to implement attendance awards the right way.