The MHS Mirror
Attendance rate rises at MHS in DecemberTuesday, February 07, 2012 By Javiera Green
This past August, Mattoon High School unveiled its positive incentive program. Within this system, students who earn a “C” or better and have three or fewer absences each semester will be exempt from a final exam for that course. Another part of the program rewards students throughout the semester. For each day a student attends school, they receive a point, along with a point per day for no disciplinary infractions. Meeting and exceeding scores on standarized tests also garners points. At the end of the year, if they receive over 70 percent of the possible points, 50 points come from students who earn a 3.5 or higher G.P.A., students earn a trip to Six Flags. During this same time the incentive program was implemented, the MHS attendance rate reached a high point, in December 2011 at 93 percent, causing many to speculate if there was causation present between the program and how often students were attending school. The MHS staff and students have varying opinions on why the rate was higher than normal in December. According to MHS attendance secretary Amy St. John, attendance has increased directly due to the final exam exemption. Likewise, MHS Principal Michele Sinclair said students know that if they miss three or fewer days, they don’t have to take finals, which is making them put forth an effort to go to school more often. Although Sincliar believes that students are working harder because of the final exemption rules, some students feel like attendance has only improved because of the other incentives put in place. According to MHS senior Kayla Davis, students only come to school so they can get rewarded. “The administration bribed the students with a trip to Six Flags,” she said. Some teachers have wondered if attendance would remain high if there were no rewards in place, but they are, in general, thankful that students are attending more. “I think it’d come down a little bit [the attendance rate without the incentives]. I hope those positive steps we’re making will bridge the gap,” said Jeremy Gibson, MHS government and economics teacher. Other MHS staff besides Gibson think attendance could remain lower if there were no positive incentives. “No, I don’t think it [attendance] would have [increased]. It would have stayed the same. There would be no reason for them to work hard,” said St. John. Similar to St. John, Sinclair thinks attendance would go back to where it once was, which was around the 90 percent range. But, according to Sinclair, having the parents involved through the incentive program helps encourage students to be present at school. Sinclair added that a 90 percent attendance rate means on average students are missing 10 percent of 176 school days, which means kids are missing approximately 17 days per year or eight each semester. At the same time the attendance rate is rising, grades at MHS are also improving, according to the staff and administration. The result is not unnoticed among the MHS staff. “They are getting a quality education,” said St. John, while staying within the perimeters of the rules and not having to take finals, which is “taking the pressure off students.” As grades are improving, expectations of spring attendance rates are high among the administration. “I would love to see our spring rate at 94 or 95 percent,” said Sinclair, who added that students are more aware of the benefits program and can monitor their own attendance. With this increase in students attending school according to St. John, it’s had a positive effect on MHS as a whole. “They’re wanting to be here for all the right reasons,” said St. John.