By Anya Kamenetz
From shiny red pencils reading “My Attendance Rocks!” to countless plaques and ribbons and trophies and certificates and gold stars: For as long as anyone can remember, taking attendance — and rewarding kids for simply showing up — is a time-honored school ritual.
For good reason: Just being there, day in, day out, happens to be one of the most important factors that determines a child’s success in school. And average daily head count forms the basis of school funding decisions at the federal, state and local level.
Yet now, like so many other aspects of education, that simple measure — “here” or “absent” — is not so simple anymore. States are having to update their attendance policies to cover the realities of virtual learning. And where school is being held in-person, strict coronavirus health protocols mean students must now stay home at the slightest sign of illness, or to quarantine in case of a potential exposure.