Friday, February 27, 2009

Teaching Pt. 17

As an addendum to the previous posting, we might need to take some additional issues into account.

Given that students do get ill, it may be necessary to perform a statistical analysis of the number of days that the average student at your particular school experiences an illness throughout the year. The student will be given those number of "sick-days" along with an extra 2 or 3 days. The student can use these "sick-days" anytime during the year, with restrictions put on the number of consecutive sick days (no more than a week). It must be made clear that if the student is not honest about his/her illness he/she will be made to go to school on days when the truly are sick. If the student is truly ill, and has used all their sick days then they must bring a doctors note, and the school will call the doctor directly to verify the authenticity.

Not every student in the school will need the program, this program should be reserved for the chronically truant, those that are truant almost everyday or every week. This program also may not be necessary at every school in every neighborhood. High performing schools may not need such a program, average performing schools may opt to use the program only when necessary and low performing schools may decide they need the program. Also, not every level of education may need this program, elementary and universities obviously don't need the program, but some high schools and middle schools may need the program.

Program Review:
After a couple of months of the program, students will be allowed to opt out of the program based on grades, behavior, and extra curricular activities. If the student begins to show signs of chronic truancy, the program will begin again.

This program will decrease truancy, decrease drop out rates, decrease crime rates, and increase graduation rates. Some schools in some neighborhoods have nearly 2/3 of their student population truant on Mondays and Fridays, this make is difficult for the instructors, other students, and administration since they have to slow the class down when the truant students decide they would like to show up. Not to mention that chronic truancy is highly correlated with drop out rates and future criminal activity.

People might scoff at the "severity" of the program, but consider this:

1 in 100 adults are in prison:

The prison programs are far more severe than anything I have proposed here and yet people find it completely normal. Granted not everyone in prison is in for a violent crime yet, this fact does not explain why they committed the crime in the first place.

Given that education is the key to social mobility and a well paying job-without too much physical effort, it is imperative that we develop ways to ensure students attend and do well in school.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Teaching Pt. 16

I heard a report on the radio regarding one challenging school's efforts to combat truancy, which I believe are commendable. I also heard details indicating that most students, in that school, "skip" school on Mondays and Fridays along with their reasons why. Hopefully the following ideas may help:

There are several ways to combat truancy listed in descending order of cost and effort:

1. Truancy could be nearly eliminated if the students lived on the school grounds, basically a boarding school. Obviously this is an extreme example that may be untenable, but at least the idea has been publicized.

2. The school can statistically analyze which students are most likely to "skip" school on Mondays and Fridays and where they live. So early on Monday and Friday mornings around 5 am school buses will be sent out on routes to pick up those students one after the other. Each bus will carry several truant officers, just in case the students need a little extra motivation to go to school on Mondays and Fridays. The bus routes will be chosen for efficiency of time and energy. Students will be picked up in random order, within certain limits, every Monday and Friday. Both the schedule and the route will be randomized, within certain limits, to forestall any attempts to plan against the pick up.

3. Another idea is to call potential truants, on their landline phone, on Mondays and Fridays around 5:30 am to remind them to attend school. With a follow up call every 10 - 15 min. If the telephone call is not answered, answered by a machine, answered by voice mail, or if any other indication that the student may not attend immediately a truant officer is dispatched. This works in three ways: the direct message to remind the student to attend school, the nuisance factor to the parents and family having to wake up and answer the phone so early in the morning, finally the prospect of having a truant officer show up at 5 am to get you ready for school. Once again the timing and frequency of the phone calls will be randomized. Truant officers may be strategically placed around the school district to ensure no less than a 10 min lag between notification and arrival on scene.

Once the student answers the phone he or she will be given a certain amount of time to arrive to school based on how long it takes to travel to school depending upon the mode of transportation.

4. Given that most students use cellphones, the school may use Google latitude to track the position of students as they make their way to school. Students that may be potential truants will be identified and located. In fact the phone call from part 3 may actually direct the student to turn on his/her cell phone just for this purpose.

5. Student will be encouraged to attend classes, and reminded everyday the importance of school and of consistently attending school.

John G.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Teaching Pt. 15

As an addendum to the gradekeeper system proposed in my eariler post, once a negative grade trend is detected the server can alert the student's parents via email, snail mail, twitter, or phone, whichever form each parent uses as primary communication. It is probably best to send all email, snail mail, twitter messages, or phone messages to each parent's place of employment. This way the school avoids student tampering with email accounts, snail mail, phone messages, or twitter messages.

John Gonzalez