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Fighting Fs and absences

Published: Friday, Jan. 18, 2013 2:31 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Jan. 18, 2013 2:41 p.m. CDT

SPRING VALLEY — The Hall High School administration is focusing on failing students and absent students, and the connections between the two groups.

At Wednesday’s school board meeting, Hall Assistant Principal Angie Carpenter presented a report on the failure data for the fall semester for the freshman class. Carpenter said of the 113 students in the class, 21 students had received one or more Fs for the semester. Carpenter said this was the same number of freshmen who received an F at the end of last year’s fall semester, but that class was smaller, so the percentage of students failing dropped from 21.4 percent to 18.5 percent.

“We’d like to see a lot fewer freshmen coming in and failing,” she said.

But other numbers were increasing.

For the 2011-12 school year, the district identified incoming freshmen who were not performing at grade level in math, English or reading, and assigned them to additional core math and core English classes.

For that year, there were 33 students in the core English and 39 students assigned to core math. This year that number climbed to 47 in the core English class and 60 in the core math. Next year those numbers are projected to increase to 57 in core English and 73 in core math, out of an estimated class size of 108 students.

“We’re seeing more and more students not being high school-ready,” said Superintendent Mike Struna.

Struna said the district’s efforts seem to be working.

“In the past, the students would have been put in pre-algebra or told to take Algebra 1 for two years,” he said. “Now we’re saying, ‘No, you’re all taking Algebra 1, and we’re going to get you through it.’”

Carpenter said there a connection with attendance, as six of the students who had failed a class also exceeded the maximum number of absences.

“If they’re not here they’re falling behind, and they’re staying behind,” she said.

Assistant Principal Eric Bryant then discussed the absence report.

“Our attendance issues have gotten worse,” he said. “It’s getting worse, and we’re trying to figure out ways to make it better.”

Of the 111 students in the freshman class, there were 189 absences. Of those absences, seven students accounted for 100 of the absences.

Of the 189 absences, 177 were excused absences, meaning a parent called the absence in.

“There’s not a lot we can do about excused absences if parents are calling them in,” Bryant said. “They say, ‘They kind of have a sore throat, so I’m just going to keep them home.’’”

Letters are sent to the parents after the third, fifth and seventh absences. After seven, any absence without a medical excuse is considered unexcused, and the student receives a 0 for the day.

Bryant said the trend is the same in every class, with about 7 percent of the students accounting for 60 percent of the absences.

“The other 93 percent we don’t have a problem with,” he said.

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