Interpretation's Date: May 12, 2006
by superintendent Steven L. Paine
Section: IV. Students

April 12, 2006

Priscilla M. Haden, Secretary
West Virginia Board of Education
Capitol Building 6, Room 351
1900 Kanawha Blvd., East
Charleston, WV 25305-0330

Dear Ms. Haden:

On behalf of the West Virginia Board of Education's High Schools for West Virginia's Future Task Force, you have asked that I reconsider previous Superintendent's Interpretations regarding county attendance incentives and the use of Saturday school.

Regarding attendance incentives, you have asked that I consider permitting counties to develop incentives wherein students who have not missed more than a set number of days per semester are exempted from taking semester exams. The rationale for allowing this type of incentive is that it has been shown to be one of the only effective means by which a county can actually improve its rate of student attendance.

It is widely recognized that school attendance plays an integral role in the education of a child. West Virginia Board of Education Policy 4110 emphasizes that "a direct relationship exists between students' daily school attendance and academic performance, graduation, and good work habits . . . Daily attendance is necessary for students to meet their schools' academic program standards as each day's learning builds on the work previously completed." Nonetheless, because attendance is dependent on factors outside of a school's control (e.g., parent involvement, etc.), there are limited measures the school can take to improve student attendance. The consensus of educators in West Virginia is that student attendance has generally shown improvements when the semester exam incentive has been allowed, and that no other incentive programs have proven to be as useful in increasing student attendance.

Accordingly, it is my opinion that county attendance incentives wherein students who have not accumulated more than a set number of excused absences per semester are exempted from taking semester exams are permissible under West Virginia law and West Virginia Board of Education policy. Under such policies an award of credit is still based upon demonstrated mastery of the instructional objectives. No grades shall be awarded or reduced based upon attendance alone. Further, all such policies must clearly define the number of absences after which the semester exams will be required, must clearly define excused and unexcused absences, must not base an unduly large percentage of a final grade on the semester exam, and must be applied uniformly to all students. Finally, it is my recommendation that all students be encouraged to take semester exams, even if the student opts not to have the exam grade factored into his or her final grade for a course.
Regarding the use of Saturday school, West Virginia Code 18A-5-2 states that "schools shall not be kept open on any Saturday nor on the following days which are designated as legal school holidays . . ." Thus, counties cannot require students to attend school on Saturday to make up missed work. However, it would be permissible to allow counties to make Saturday school available to students and to encourage students to attend and obtain assistance in completing missed work. Attendance at these optional sessions would certainly be a benefit to a student who has missed a significant amount of academic instruction and may be a convenient avenue for making up the missed work in a succinct and directed manner.
Hoping that I have been of service, I am


Steven L. Paine
State Superintendent of Schools

cc: Melanie Purkey, Executive Director, WVDE Lisa Burton, Coordinator, WVDE

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