In 2020, virtual truancy is a serious concern for virtual educators.
Part of Maricopa Unified School District’s efforts to make everyone accountable was adopting attendance procedures. While not as exact as having a student in the physical classroom saying, “Here,” the new rules give teachers and students some flexibility for noting attendance.
“Monitoring attendance is very important during this online experience,” said Maricopa Wells Middle School Principal Thad Miller. “We have a thorough plan and schedule in place, and I am happy with the results.”
It is an “and/or” situation.
All MUSD students must submit a weekly log to the school “for evidence of learning time.” Each student must also either be present for the daily synchronous lessons or submit work for the day on an online platform.
“The attendance procedures are working,” said Jennifer Robinson, Ed.D., principal of Maricopa Elementary School. “Taking attendance throughout the day helps us collect real-time data and gives us opportunities to reach out and connect with parents.”
Attendance was part of the training offered to parents. MUSD considers the synchronous classes the easiest way to keep attendance because the teacher sees the students logged in.
“Overall, our students are doing a great job attending Live Meets and completing work,” Santa Rosa Elementary Principal Eva Safranek said. “It is great to see all the students daily. We are following up with families whose students have not logged in to provide support to ensure that every student is able to participate and engage in learning.”
According to MUSD, unexcused absences are noted when the student does not participate in any activities for the day, doesn’t check in with the teacher, doesn’t log in distance-learning time for the day and when the student’s parent hasn’t contacted the school.
Parents are expected to sign the weekly attendance log, which are turned in Sunday.
“Attendance procedures are going very well,” said Stephanie Rhinehart, the new principal at Santa Cruz Elementary. “We have given parents many options for providing evidence of their child’s attendance from joining our live instruction to turning work in after school hours. Parents are also completing a learning log that will be turned in each week which also documents their students’ attendance.”
Elizabeth Allison, new principal at Pima Butte Elementary, agreed the process seemed to be working.
“So far, the attendance policy seems to capture the needs of our students and families while still meeting the requirements outlined by ADE,” she said. “There is no perfect system for measuring student productivity while learning online; however, our current procedures allow for the flexibility needed for our families to work and still be able to support their students’ learning.”
Administrators emphasized the flexibility available for the district’s families, who are in a wide range of circumstances when it comes to technology.
“Our current procedures allow for the flexibility needed for our families to work and still be able to support their scholars’ learning,” Robinson said.
Saddleback Elementary Principal Marchelle Hasan said the flexibility means convenience for families.
“Students can participate in live sessions or watch recordings of the live sessions at a later time,” she said. “Students are given several opportunities to be marked ‘present’ for attendance through a variety of avenues.”
It is a group effort, according to the principals. Carlos Alvarado is overseeing about 800 students at Desert Wind Middle School, so communication up and down the line is crucial.
“It’s been very well communicated from the district, and all our parents are really responding as far as the daily check-in,” he said. “All the kids are working with that situation as well.”
Alvarado said classified staff had been assigned as “more or less an intervention team,” which contacts parents to assess the situation. Whether it’s connectivity or something more personal, the team then works on a solution.
“Teachers, administration and front office staff are working together to record attendance and follow up with families of students who did not attend online or did not submit assignments,” Butterfield Elementary Principal Janell Hildick said. “Our goal is to make certain every Butterfield student is participating in the online/learning platform and that we are providing support to students and families who need it.”
Miller is happy with what he has seen so far from a large student population.
“Our students have been attending their virtual classes consistently, which is wonderful to see, and our teachers have been doing an excellent job with tracking attendance each day,” he said. “We have had over 910 students attending our online distance learning at Maricopa Wells. I am ecstatic about the number of students we are serving each day. I look forward to the progression of our students and am excited for the 2020-2021 school year.”