Attendance: It’s Simple

Angela Buzan Education, Education Policy

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A three-part series which reminds teachers to never underestimate how many estimations surround a single action. 

“Students should be absent from school only when absolutely necessary, as much of the classroom activity cannot be made up; the benefit of lectures, discussion, and participation is lost forever to those who are absent…an absence is defined as missing one period of class during a school day. AR§15-901 A-2 mandates that ten consecutive absences constitutes a mandatory withdrawal from school.”

Teachers and students should strictly adhere to the state mandated attendance policy. New teachers, please be aware of the following caveats as you enter absences:

On Tardies: 

  • If a student is more than 10 minutes late, the tardy counts as an absence—unless the student is late because of another teacher. This is sometimes announced in a school wide e-mail that says: “I’m sorry my class was late, we were working.” Other times, it will be proven with a sticky note and an illegible signature.*
  • Sometimes the Pledge of Allegiance and first period announcements will exceed the first ten minutes of class. If a student walks in at the eleventh minute of class, the minute you are able to start teaching your lesson, the student is still considered absent, even though they missed no instruction time.
  • Weather cancellations and delays are determined by the district, who proactively builds them into the school calendar. Outside of these district-wide determinations, students who are physically unable to make it to school due to weather or road conditions, will be marked absent or late.
  • Occasionally, traffic delays will merit excused tardies. In this case, the office will send a school wide e-mail asking teachers not to mark first period truancies. Thus, the attendance record will indicate the student was present in class.
  • If a student is late because the bus driver is late, the student is not to be marked late. Thus, the attendance record will indicate the student was present in class.
  • If a student is late because a parent is late, the student is late. Thus, the attendance record will indicate the student did not make it to class on time.

On Absences:

Remember, a student is allowed ten absences before they entirely lose credit in class, unless:

  • A student participates in a sport. Teams often travel during the school day in order to get to their game on time. Note: the number of absences varies depending on the sport. Also note: some athletes participate in multiple sports, which may detrimentally impact the number of physical seat hours they are able to obtain in their 7th hour class.
  • A student is a member of a club, especially those that organize and prepare school-wide events, such as assemblies.
  • The school needs to disseminate important information to the entire student body (or one large group of students, which is easiest to do through the major core subjects English or Math. In each of the following examples, let the attendance record show the student was present for an hour of English, despite the actual disseminated content:
    • Course registration for the following year
    • Quarterly, state-mandated career aptitude tests
    • School-wide behavior presentations
    • College and scholarship presentations
    • Presentation from yearbook and/or memorabilia companies
    • FAFSA presentations and/or workshops
    • Practice Fire Drills (see also: Lock Downs, Lock Ins, Disaster/Hazard Drills, etc)
    • Standardized testing (including, but not limited to: State, district, and national tests)

On Credit Recovery

When a student loses credit in a class, they are required to make up the missed credits in order to graduate. A student can:

  • Retake the class, this time attaining the required seat hours.
  • Take the course in Summer School, over a period of three to four weeks.
  • Complete the course online– an option which, unfortunately, does not offer the invaluable benefit of classroom lectures, discussion, and participation…


*author guilty of both


Angela Buzan is a full time English teacher in the Flagstaff Unified School District. She has thirteen years’ teaching experience and has taught all grades seven through twelve. In 2010, she received a Fulbright Teacher Exchange fellowship to Kolkata, India; in 2012 she achieved National Board Certification; in 2014 she earned a Master’s Degree in Curriculum Design and Instruction. Her current challenge is to out-read Gavin, in third period, who typically polishes off three novels a week.

Comments 4

  1. Treva Jenkins

    Angela–Thank you for your blog. We know that regular attendance
    is a critical part of a child’s education. Students who attend school regularly
    definitely increase their sense of belonging to their school; they develop significant social
    skills and create bonds with peers. More significantly, they have a better
    chance of being more successful academically. We know there is a direct correlation
    between attendance and achievement. As teachers, it’s also important we convey this
    message to our parents and provide them with useful tips for when their child
    has to miss school.

    As teachers we must…

    1. Emphasize attendance from day one

    2. Use parent teacher conference to talk about attendance

    3. Promote a culture of attendance all year long

  2. Amethyst Hinton Sainz

    All I can say is: Yup. SMH.

    Having been in several different districts, I can honestly say that there are widely varying degrees of respect for instructional time, making sure all sections have the same length of time, etc.

  3. Beth Maloney

    YES! I just had to have a difficult conversation with a parent about her student’s progress. It boiled down to tardies. I had to explain to her that her student cannot miss the first 45 minutes of my reading block every single day and expect to be successful! Another student doesn’t come to school on Mondays. Yes, you read that correctly – he has missed all but 4 Mondays in our year so far. Yet I am still responsible for their standardized test scores. Explain to me again how that makes sense??? Great post, Angela. Clearly, you’ve hit a hot button issue with me.

  4. Lisa Moberg

    Truth. Word. We had a student who was tardy 120 days this year and never brought to CUTS. Then the parents wanted to retain him the last week of school, yet never came to his conferences throughout the year. Oi

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