TMS aims to cut exam absences

news_education_greenBy Chris Kieffer

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Tupelo Middle School will hold final examinations over fewer days this year.

It also will host field days or other activities on those days as an incentive for students who are exempt from those exams to still come to school.

Both efforts are attempts to increase enrollment during exam week. The district’s attendance was roughly cut in half during final exams this year, TMS Principal Kristy Luse said. That is significant since average daily attendance is used by the state to determine how much funding every school district receives.

Primarily, the state uses the average attendance for October and November to determine funding figures. However, if the average for the entire year is higher, it will use that number instead. Superintendent Gearl Loden has said it is important for the district to ensure the yearly average is high, in case a special circumstance – such as a flu outbreak – lowers the October and November total. Thus the district has looked at ways to still attract students to school during a time when exemptions typically keep them away from it.

Under a new rule, students must be present for 63 percent of the school day to be counted as present. In the past, they were counted if there were there for any of the day. Other factors probably contributed to the lower exam week attendance this year, Luse said. It occurred shortly after the April 28 tornado, and snow makeup days added to the end of the year came during a time when some students had already scheduled vacations.

Still, Luse said, it was important to look at the impact of exemptions, which students earn for good grades throughout the year. At the middle school, students only can be exempt from final exams.

In the past, those tests were held over 41⁄2 days, with each day dedicated to a different subject, such as English or math. Those who were exempt had no reason to attend.

Now, the school day will be divided into three two-hour blocks during the two days of exam week.

One day will be for first-, second- and third-period classes and the other for fourth-, fifth- and sixth-periods. Seventh-period and exam makeups will be on the final day of the year, which is an early-dismissal day. That way, students exempt from first-period would still attend second- and third-period, and so forth. Also, the school will hold activities, such as a field day or popcorn party, for those who are exempt.

“We want to increase attendance and will teach as close up to the end of school as possible,” Luse said.

chris.kieffer@journalinc.com