Arlington high school students are cutting classes at a high rate according to a preliminary report presented to the Arlington school board last week.
The report on student conduct and attendance, which was prepared by a 25-member committee composed of parents and school staff members, shows that 35 percent of senior high school students last year missed at least 20 percent of classes in one grading period. Forty percent of those students who missed a third of the classes in one subject passed the course.
"It is the strongest immediate feeling that (minimum attendance standards) must be addressed," committee chairman Karen Rosenbaum told the board.
In 1975 and 1976 the school board rejected a proposal that would have set minimum attendance standards as a requirement for passing a course. Current school policy requires attendance in clas unless a student is excused.
In the past year, Rosenbaum told the board, surrounding jurisdictions have adopted minimum attendance standards. For example, Alexandria students who miss more than 20 days without an excuses absence automatically fail a course.
According to the report, Arlington's absence rate has not changed significantly since 1975. Less than 6 percent of all Arlington high school students now cut classes for an entire day. In Virginia that figure is 8 percent nationally it is 7 perect.
"Consider the fact that in some urban school systems average daily attendance . . . runs as low as 45 percent, Arlington indeed seems to have no problem with daily attendance," the report noted.
School board member Richard A. Barton said, however, "I'm a little disturbed that you can miss (30 percent) of instruction in a class and still pass."
"What you see at the senior high school level is (a high) overall attendance rate with very selective cutting," said school Superintendent Larry Cuban, who asked the committee to determine which grades and classes have the highest absentee rates.
According to the report at least 85 percent of the secondary school staff favors establishing a minimum attendance standard for students.
"The most important thing we need is more data from parents on minimum attendance standards," Rosenbaum told the board.
The committee is scheduled to present a final report to the school board, including possible recommendatiions for a minimum attendance standard, in April.