New Attendance Policy Reports Absences Daily

Phillips Academy’s system of taking attendance has moved into the digital age. The new program, announced Wednesday by Dean of Students Marlys Edwards in an email to students and faculty, now reports absences from attendance recorded on a daily basis and allows students to view both their unexcused and excused absences. The new system shifts the burden of recording whether an absence is excused or not from the teacher or coach, who will now only mark the student present or absent, to the online database, which will collect excuses from Isham, cluster deans, and the chaplaincy. “I’m sure there will be initial glitches,” Mr. Green said, though he also said that the glitches would be easy to work out if students checked their attendance record often. The old system meant that there were long delays for a dean to be notified of a student’s absences – sometimes as many as 10 days – and house counselors and advisors were often not even notified until after the cluster deans had been, said West Quad North Cluster Dean Chad Green. “It created a problem for us in terms of the safety of the students,” Mr. Green said. Another reason the system was updated was to eliminate the flurry of forms and notes that would go from students to teachers through the Dean of Studies’ office. According to Mr. Green, the old system caused battles between teachers and students about whether or not absences were excused. The new method of recording attendance is actually a consolidation of three previous systems, where excuses from the health center, the deans, and the chaplaincy were all handled separately and almost exclusively on paper. A student’s attendance is cross-referenced against excuses in the system, and the excusing of absences will be done electronically, with human oversight being performed by the Deans’ Office. According to Abbot Cluster Dean Lisa Joel, the system has been in development since Spring Term. Ms. Joel said that the upgrade was the Technology Office’s top priority over the summer. John Chapman ’09 agreed that the upgrade was necessary. Chapman, who last year was disciplined for over-cutting, said that the newer system would have allowed him and others to keep track of their absences after they had occurred. He said that he was assessed cuts incorrectly for excused absences long after those classes had occurred, and that by the time he was made aware of his predicament, the grace period for correcting the record had passed. On the other hand, another student said that the new method would eliminate the intimacy between teachers and students, and that students would be more susceptible to being assessed cuts without conferring with the teacher. The new method of taking attendance, which has been in effect since the start of the school year, is available on every student’s PAnet homepage.