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Playing Hooky With One's Children

When is it defensible for parents to keep their children out of school?  I'm not talking now about illness or bereavement.  Instead I'm referring to educational trips ("When Is It OK to Play Hooky With Your Children?" The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 30).

Prior to the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, states were required to report only truancy or unexcused absences.  But today they have to report chronic absenteeism, which is usually defined as absence for any reason totally 10 percent or more of school days.  In short, no distinction is now made.

I understand the importance of daily attendance in terms of learning.  But there are occasions when trips have greater educational value than what transpires in the classroom. When I was teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the policy was that all students had to get their teachers' signatures before leaving school with their parents.  I signed the permission slips even though it always made for additional work.  I had to give students the assignments they would otherwise be responsible for if they had remained in school. Since I taught English, it was easier for students to make up the work than if I had taught, say, science.  There is little substitute for the lab work they missed.

What constitutes educational value is largely a matter of professional judgment.  Some trips are no brainers.  For example, a colleague had the son of a California state senator.  When the father was sworn in at the state capitol in Sacramento, the teacher quickly signed the permission slip.  Other trips are hard to justify.  But I don't expect to see many changes in the years ahead.  After all, parents have the right to decide what is best for their own children even though teachers don't always agree.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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