Interpretation's Date: September 18, 2002
by superintendent David Stewart
Section: II. Curriculum

September 18, 2002

Tilden L. Hackworth, Superintendent Mineral County Schools
One Baker Place
Keyser, West Virginia 26726

Dear Mr. Hackworth:

This is to acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated July 8, 2002 relative to West Virginia Board of Education Policy 4110, Attendance, and West Virginia Board of Education Policy 2510, Assuring Quality Education. Specifically you asked whether the following provisions in your present attendance policy were consistent with the revisions to the State Board policies:

1. "On the sixth unexcused absence, the student shall be required to pass the final exam to receive course credit."

2. "A semester test grade for any student accumulating no more than 3 absences in a class shall be factored into the final grade only if it improves the average."

3. "Course credit may be withhold [sic] from any student who accumulate [sic] accumulates seven or more absences for any semester course."

4. "Retention will be considered for any student in grades K-8 who accumulates fourteen (14) or more absences for the current school year."

The first two items, above, as mentioned in your county attendance policy are inconsistent with the goal of the policies and items three and four, above, that are currently in your county attendance policy clearly contradict the new language of West Virginia Board of Education Policies 4110 and 2510. I would refer you to my earlier interpretation, dated November 20, 2001, addressed to Preston County Superintendent Zinn wherein I quoted West Virginia Board of Education Policy 2510 which defines "course" and "unit of credit" and states that "Credit for each course is to be awarded based upon either demonstrated mastery of the instructional objectives by successful completion of the course or tested mastery of approved instructional goals and objectives. . . Students demonstrating mastery of instructional grade level objectives in the subjects are to be provided the opportunity to advance to the next grade level objectives." As a result of the foregoing, the provisions listed above should not be included in your revised policy on attendance.

You further requested that the following incentives be reviewed should the existing policy need revision:

1. "To exhibit mastery in a course, all students will take the semester exam which will count 20% of the total grade. Students with six (6) or less absences will take the semester test at 10% of the total grade. Every student has the right to refuse the incentive prior to the exam."

2. A student with zero (0) or one (1) absences [sic] will have three (3) percentage points added to his/her term average in the subject; two (2) percentage points will be added for two (2) absences; and one (1) percentage point will be added for three absences."

I find these proposed incentives to be problematic as well.

As I stated above, the focus of the course and provision for credit should be on mastery, not attendance. The classroom teacher may provide points for participation linked to the curriculum, content standards and objectives. This keeps the focus where it should be, on mastery. Although poor attendance will generally have a negative impact on mastery, that is not always the case. As a result, grades and attendance should not be linked in a county attendance policy. I trust you will utilize other incentives such as certificates, awards, extra time for lunch or breaks, and/or partnering with businesses in the area to provide awards, in your revised policy on attendance.

Thank you for dedication and timeliness in addressing and revising your County Attendance Policy. If you have any further questions, please contact Lisa Burton, Coordinator for the Office of Student Services and Assessment at 304-558-2546.



David Stewart
State Superintendent of Schools

cc: Lisa Burton, Coordinator

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