Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Attention Public Schools: Why not Value Achievement over Attendance?

This Diane Tran case in Texas has got my blood boiling. For those not familiar with the case, Tran was sentenced to 24 hours of jail time by Judge Lanny Moriarty for oversleeping and missing school too much. Nobody in authority seems to care that Tran was abandoned by her divorcing parents and worked a job and a half to help her older brother stay in college and to help support her younger sister. Nobody in authority seems to care that Tran is an honor student. She is unfortunate enough to live in a state with compulsory attendance until age 18, so she got turned in by her helpful high school "education professionals."

While there are many issues involved, including finding the deadbeat parents, my focus today is on the whole idea of universal compulsory attendance laws. Why should the state care how many days a kid goes to school as long as there is proof said child has mastered the curriculum? Why should high school honor students on track for graduation even be subject to compulsory attendance laws? The answer is simple: government-controlled schools are paid according to how many kids are occupying seats. Obviously if compulsory attendance laws were about academic achievement, kids like Tran would be cut some slack.

Gifted children suffer from compulsory attendance laws. Depending on the state, gifted children are trapped with all other children in boring, repetitive classes until the age of 16 to 18. Homeschoolers suffer from compulsory attendance laws because these laws are used as justification for state oversight of home and private schools. Compulsory attendance laws are a burden on responsible parents and responsible students.

Who benefits from compulsory attendance laws? Labor unions benefit as young people are kept out of the work force and public schools benefit because they get paid for body counts, not for educational outcomes. End of rant—for now.