A Project for Better Journalism chapter

New Attendance Policy

The attendance policy established this fall is designed for teachers to account for students being present, despite the limits of distance learning. The new code allows for students to be marked as absent, suffering from technical problems, present, or the desired present and engaged.

The issues that arise from this policy are colored largely by different interpretations on what distance learning should look like.

Teachers say they often have difficulty distinguishing between present and engaged. Whereas teachers cannot compel students to turn on cameras, it’s the most important factor in evaluating whether students are engaged.

An issue of debate is whether students can expect to, or are even supposed to make visual appearances. Many students are uncomfortable with the idea of letting their class into their home. The separation of public and private spheres has been nearly wiped out for teachers, students, and parents alike since social distancing went into effect. As distance learning is largely new, most districts are trying to replicate the classroom with a video conference. Other teachers however, are more forward-thinking: they use conferences for attendance and questions, as lectures and assignments can be uploaded and accessed more flexibly.