Riding the South

The blog of Scott and Jenny Morris

No-school Mondays

is strange solution

By Jenny Morris

When a student recently chose “No-school Mondays” as the subject of her memo assignment in my Technical Writing class, I thought she had invented the story.

So I googled the topic. You can, too, but the gist of “No-School Mondays” is this: a north Alabama county high school has made school attendance optional for students on Mondays this semester.

“Students will be asked to come to school,” reads The Decatur Daily story, “but they won’t be required to.”

Here at the end of all things, i.e. final exams at my college, I’m wondering how it went.

This novel idea — to take no rolls, and thus report no one as absent 20 percent of the school week — is in response to 35 percent of the student population failing one or more subjects the previous semester. The idea is that many of the passing students will stay home, and failing students will come to school and benefit from a lower student-to-teacher ratio.

In my experience, a contributing factor for failing students is that they don’t come to class even when I take roll. I can only imagine the empty seats if I didn’t.

But I’m not the only one who suspects there might be negative consequences to the policy. The superintendent’s fear, right behind his fear that attendance will decrease on Mondays in the system’s middle and elementary schools, is that concession sales will take a hit with fewer students in the building.

But, he continues, he would like to see “the kids take responsibility for their learning.”

Maybe next time they’ll just hand out library cards and tell the students good luck.

When I finished laughing, and finished wringing every last laugh out of anyone unfortunate enough to be near me as I repeatedly read the story aloud, I realized the true import of the policy.

I know too well the truth in the cliché that desperate times call for desperate measures. I’ve lived through one or two of them, and I’m sure had anyone bothered to notice, the decisions I made weren’t always the most obvious or logical.   

Faced with ill-prepared and apathetic students, the school is grasping for something that will effect change. All the while the backdrop to this drama is a state legislature that postures over the importance of education while systematically dismantling it.   

I don’t think No-School Mondays will be the catalyst for student success that the administrators hope. My student, the one who wrote the memo that encouraged repealing the policy, voted with her feet and moved her teenage daughter to a neighboring district.