Swine flu wipes out silly school test exemption policy

You've got to admit, we can get some loopy logic when it comes to how we do school policy around here.

Examples, you say? Okay, how about:

1. Assigned schools. (Unless, of course, you happen to be a talented athlete who would prefer to attend elsewhere.)

2: Teacher half-days. (Great for teachers, and don't worry, Mom and Dad, you'll figure out how to work and pick up the kids.)

3. A personal favorite: That sacred school day off so students can attend the state hootenanny. (Oops, I mean Florida State Fair.)

Okay, now some good news.

This week, the Hillsborough School Board voted to continue to suspend one of its most nonsensical, noneducational policies — and it only took the swine flu to get it to vote that way.

The exam exemption policy works like this: Hillsborough students who are in good academic standing and who don't miss a single day of school were allowed to skip up to seven — seven! — semester exams a year. Those with near-perfect attendance could get out of one or two exams a semester. Notably, under this policy you could even be a "C" student and skip tests.

Pinellas sports a more prudent rule that allows only a student with an A or B in a course to skip the final exam. The number of days a student can miss and still bypass exams varies by school schedule but generally ranges from two to six days a semester.

So, you're asking, what's wrong with motivating kids to come to school? Isn't instilling a work ethic a good idea? Sure.

And, as my seventh grade science teacher used to say: However.

Encouraging kids to slog to school (and later in life, to work) no matter how sick they are, teaching them it's more important to show up than to stay home and get better, making it clear it's not important to worry about potentially infecting others are all poor ideas.

Enter the swine flu.

The exam exemption policy, loved by many a teenager for all the obvious reasons, came under scrutiny after the H1N1 headlines and the strong advice from health officials that — get this — people who have flulike symptoms should stay home and not risk spreading it around.

Wait — didn't we, the alleged grownups, already know this?

With that, the Hillsborough School Board wisely and unanimously voted to suspend the popular perfect-attendance perk. In Pinellas, a student who misses more school than allowed because of an "extenuating circumstance," like a bout with the swine flu, can ask for a waiver.

The hiatused Hillsborough deal gives school officials time to look at something important: the reasons kids are there in the first place.

Exams are supposed to show how much a student has learned over the course of a course. Without a test, where's the measure? And, by the way, shouldn't a student earning only a "C" average be required to show what he knows?

Something else to think about, educationwise: Isn't the act of preparing for and taking a final exam an educational experience in itself — one that kids will encounter repeatedly in college?

As one School Board member put it, "It will not kill a student to take all of his or her exams."

Good point, because students learning something while they're there is sort of the point.

Swine flu wipes out silly school test exemption policy 08/13/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 13, 2009 8:58pm]

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