Despite being a common practice, awarding students for perfect attendance may not be the most effective or fair measure of their intelligence or educational experience. In other words, there should be no perfect attendance awards, as it doesn’t necessarily reflect a student’s true academic progress.
Prizes for perfect attendance should not exist. There. I said it.
Since becoming the parent of a child with disabilities and medical difficulties, I have generally been critical of school incentive programs. I believe that report cards do not emphasize life’s essentials, and it appears that the majority of school award categories are unattainable for my child.
Straight A’s in school? Maybe. Yet, I am truly pleased with C’s if my child is working hard.
The most athletic? Most likely not. While my child enjoys playing basketball and engaging in gym class, her motor skill delays and visual impairment will always impact her athletic capabilities.
Reading, writing, or mathematics? Not likely. But I’m okay with that. I do not require that she be the best. Only her finest work.
However, Perfect Attendance is the most aggravating and infuriating prize category for me.
Why do we promote perfect attendance? What does this indicate about a child? That they are more clever or committed to succeeding than children who must miss school? That they’re more caring? That they are able to prioritize their education over their health (physical and mental)?
Let’s discuss these points.
Attendance Perfection Is Impossible for Many Families
First, school attendance is not always a child’s choice. Occasionally, transportation concerns and family crises arise on school days. Due to their work schedules, some families might not have a car or the availability to bring a child to school who missed the bus. These circumstances cannot be avoided and are not the child’s fault.
What about youngsters with chronic illnesses? Multiple medical professionals monitor many children, such as my daughter. Sadly, these doctors’ routine appointments are typically scheduled around school hours. Due to the travel time required to get to and from these appointments, students typically miss an entire school day. Even if parents would prefer it, specialists are typically unavailable during evenings and weekends. We cannot prevent this. Please avoid taking it out on our children.
100% Attendance Is Not Beneficial
Also, children with chronic health concerns tend to become ill more frequently and severely than pupils without underlying medical conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children with underlying diseases such as compromised immune systems, asthma, cardiac disorders, and others are at a higher risk of being badly affected by infections such as influenza and COVID-19.
Since she began attending daycare at the age of one, my daughter has been a magnet for illnesses, which frequently strike her hard. My child is at risk despite our vigilance with preventative measures, as microorganisms are sly. It is unfair to award one student over another based only on their health.
Nonetheless, perfect attendance prizes can motivate students to attend school while ill. This is what irritates me the most. Why would we want to encourage families to send their sick children to school at a time when the United States faces a “triple danger” of increased viral infections from influenza, COVID-19, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)?
Even before the 2020 epidemic came, I begged parents to keep their sick children home from school. Understanding what my child has endured throughout her childhood with ostensibly “minor” diseases and “common colds” becoming medical catastrophes, I have attempted to raise awareness through whatever means possible. I am aware that not all parents are in my position, and I have attempted to explain to other parents how their decision to send a sick child to school when they have the means to keep them at home can affect others. Now, in the world we live in, the stakes are greater than ever before. Schools should not promote perfect attendance as a goal in order to discourage this behavior.
Yet today’s youth, especially adolescents, face a mental health crisis. Access to mental health days should be the norm, not something to shun for fear of missing out on an inconsequential prize when they should be taking care of themselves.
There Are More Accurate Ways to Evaluate Performance Than Perfect Attendance
Undoubtedly, school attendance is vital. Presence is definitely essential for learning. But, attendance can be rewarded and encouraged in different ways. Schools should not promote this “all or nothing” approach regarding attendance. This creates an unrealistic standard for many people through no fault of their own, which can lead to unhealthy habits.
While I do not have a solution to school attendance problems, I am certain that awarding perfect attendance is not it. Instead of pressuring pupils for “perfection,” we should encourage them to care for themselves and others. We should cultivate schools where children feel unconditionally embraced and are motivated to go. To ensure that all students receive the most equitable education, we should develop structures that support the entire family. We should reward empathetic and charitable behavior. We should recognize actual effort, not just results.
There are numerous possibilities to award medals to our children for things that matter and are under their control. Lack of absences is not one of them.