Perfect Attendance

Does your middle or high school offer prizes for perfect attendance? Many do, and it’s a prize that bothers me on a number of levels. It works at cross-purposes with the goals of education, puts fellow students at risk for illness, and gives students praise for something utterly un-praiseworthy.

If a student receives a medal for Perfect Attendance, one of the following must be true:

  1. The student never got sick between August and June. Remarkable, but not really in their control, or praiseworthy. You might just as well give special prizes for any other genetic trait.
  2. The student got sick but came to school anyway. If it’s a minor cold or virus, they risked prolonging it and making others sick. If it’s anything more major they – and their parents – risked the student’s long-term health.

Just as important, to me, are the educational days that I have provided my children outside of the classroom. Whether for a trip to a museum, a family expedition, or just a day spent with visiting grandparents, there is much value in missing school. There is much value in fostering education from the home first, and building outwards. There is much value in letting their growing bodies heal when they need to heal.

My own elementary-age children just got over the stomach flu. Add to that the usual colds and coughs, mental health days and grandparent visits, and I expect I’ll be getting the letter soon about responsible attendance. But I wouldn’t change a single decision.

If you achieve the Perfect Attendance Award, what do you miss along the way?