Here you will find seven recommended attendance policies from instructors across the curriculum and from across North America. They each assert that their policy influences students to attend class regularly. You may very well find one here that improves on your present attendance policy.

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Here is my attendance policy: “All assignments will be assigned a Due Date which is to be considered the last day it will be accepted. An individual who does not attend a class or lab without prior approval of the instructor waives this deadline in favor of 8:15am the next day. This rule also applies to being present, but not working on the current assignment. Individuals who have submitted an assignment may use assigned lab time, but not lecture time, to work on other material.”

I also apply this rule to students who wish to leave early. “Mind if I leave?” says they. “Not at all,” says I. “Just hand your assignment in on your way out.” This policy has resulted in attendance problems dropping to near zero in my course, while other instructors in my department continue to struggle with the issue. It has also cut out game playing during my lab time. Attendance is half the issue; actually working to task is the other.

Other instructors have added the rule to their course outline, but do not enforce it, so they are not successful with it. It must be enforced consistently to be effective. Also note the “without prior approval” clause. This means it is not a universal rule, but has a point of negotiation prior to the absence, not after the fact. And “approval” means exactly that… some “explanations” may not be deemed important enough, so to speak.

The whole procedure steers students towards being accountable. It prevents them from leaving things to the last moment, increasing the general quality of work done in my course. And yes, it has caused some work to be submitted early, under a tight deadline imposed by the students themselves.

–JE (Joe) Marriott, Faculty, Computer Programming Technology, New Brunswick Community College – Saint John, CN

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For my developmental Comp I and Comp II writing classes, I count attendance as ten percent of the grade. Here’s my attendance policy: “Attendance will count 10%. The 10% attendance grade will count as follows for a M-W-F class: 1-2 absences = A for ten percent of grade; 3 absences = B for ten percent of grade; 3-4 absences = C; 5 = D and 6 = F; having 7 or more absences is considered excessive and the student will be asked to withdraw or I will no longer grade any assignments. I assume that if you miss a class, you have a very important reason; you do not have to give any explanation. But do turn in any late homework when you return and follow the assignment calendar. This grading policy is meant to reward good attendance and discourage spotty attendance. However, if your grade is hovering between a B and a C, for example, the 10% may make a big difference. I am reasonable and understand true emergencies. Contact me promptly to discuss your absence if you are absent two classes in a row. Prolonged illness or each absence for campus sports team events requires a written excuse from a doctor or coach.”

During the first week of classes I stress that I always assume that students have an important reason for missing a class, but that an absence is an absence; I don’t require a phone call or explanation for an absence. I explain that my policy is really meant to reward students for attending and to discourage spotty attendance. If students have an extended medical issue at one point in the semester and provide a doctor’s note, I make accommodations. If I notice that absences are clustered around only one or two periods during the semester, I reserve the right to be somewhat lenient. This policy results in several perfect attendance records in each class of 20-25 students, as well as 6 or more students with only one or two absences. In general, most class sessions seldom have more than three or four absent students.

After students are absent, I always encourage them to submit homework for a late grade and meet for a conference if the class subject matter warrants. The fact is that usually the ten percent is not enough to change a student’s overall grade, but if he or she is bordering between an A and a B or a C and a D, the ten percent could make a difference. Most students seem to meet the challenge and surprise themselves with their good attendance.

Regina Popper, Faculty, English, St. Louis Community College, MO

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In my FYE classes, I explain to students that going to college is a commitment, just like a job. Therefore, I treat it as such in many ways. On a job, employees often have “no excuses asked” sick days. I give my students 3 “sick days” no excuses asked. I need no doctor’s excuses, explanations, etc. They are “freebies.” I myself might have to take advantage of this, too as I often have meetings or conferences that call me away from the classroom. However, the assignments are still due and are still required on time. I do not start counting absences until the 4th miss. If a person gets an assignment to my office mailbox on the same day, it is ok. Every day thereafter is deducted .5 per day. (I usually have 5-10 point assignments.) This way they can still complete the work without losing all points. When they bring it to be deposited into my mailbox, it gets a note attached from the secretary as to the day and time being delivered. I, too, am responsible for the classroom work when I am absent and have to provide a substitute complete with work and assignments. This has worked well for me, so I don’t have to keep up with all the “lame”excuses as to why students do not attend.

Also, in each class I ask for a secretary and a backup (in case the secretary is absent.) The class secretary starts an attendance sheet around the room at the beginning of each class session. At 10 after the hour, the secretary gives me the list. If a student comes in after the sign-in sheet has been collected, s/he is considered absent, but still encouraged to stay (remembering that s/he has 3 “free” absent days before absences are counted). Both these processes have given the “power” back to the students, which is what we try to impart in FYE and made my record keeping ten times easier. Plus I don’t have to hear students’ lame excuses for non-attendance.

–Bev Walker, FYE Coordinator, North Central State College, OH

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Here is my attendance policy: “Excused absences do not lower your overall grade in this class.  Excused absences are those that are both valid and verifiable, i.e. illness, bereavement, and school-related activities. I will ask for verification and I expect that you will be responsible for getting any notes/materials that you missed. Three hours of un-excused absences (including vacation) are permitted, no questions asked (although I encourage you to be here for every class meeting).  Each hour missed after that will reduce your final grade by 5 points (there are 400 points in the class overall). If a special problem should arise, please see me.  If an emergency occurs and you cannot notify me in class, leave a message with a number for me to contact you.”

At Shoreline, we are on the 10 week quarter system.  I’ve always struggled with the attendance policy because I feel that attendance is crucial in a communication class.  If an objective of our college experience is to prepare us for the “real world”  (read “work world’), then I think it is perfectly appropriate to have an attendance policy that asks students to be responsible for their behaviors. I ask them to treat me like an employer–call if they are going to be late or absent.  In my experience in the world of work, the employer is typically quite lenient if the employee has been communicative. Therefore I also have a line in my syllabus that I feel is reflective of how society works.  It says: “How communicative you are with me is directly related to how lenient I’ll be with you.” Granted, while this policy works with a small class (average size 20 to 25 students), it may prove problematic with larger classes.

–Brooke Zimmers, Faculty, Speech Communication, Shoreline Community College, WA

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Here is my attendance policy: “Please attend every class. Your questions and insights on writing will help us all become better writers. Every student will start with 100 attendance points and lose 10 points per miss. The attendance grade will be a part of your final grade.”

I teach 0980 English at TRI-C Metro in Cleveland, Ohio. This is an entry level developmental class where I start with the parts of speech, move to sentence structure, paragraphing, and “wit a liddlebit o luck,” we try to start composing essays by mid term. With developmental students, flexibility seems to be the key because of problems my students have with child-care and uncooperative job supervisors. At our college, we have a serious retention problem for a million and one reasons. To try and combat this I have incorporated a few plans- some angelic and some devious. I start with 100 attendance points and students lose 10 points per miss. We have a policy of no excused absences. I also take roll 20 minutes into the 3 hour period and make personal eye contact and pronounce each name correctly and say, “Tracy is here, and Robert is here, and Sara is here,” etc. I carry a special folder of ongoing dated handouts and assignments and a notebook of lesson plans for each day. I give each student the handouts missed and review the lesson plans after class with the students who have missed a class. I also try to schedule office appointments for further help if their schedule permits. I do not drop any students for attendance, but I do pass and fail students on a traditional grade scale of 90% = A, 80% = B, 70% = C, and 60% = D for total work assigned. Writing projects range from 50 to 100 points. So far I have had good luck with this system.

–Nick Salupo, Faculty, English, Cayahoga Community College, OH

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The attendance policy at Foothill is pretty straight forward, leaving it up to the instructor.  It reads as follows: “Regular and punctual attendance is an integral part of the learning process. As a Foothill student, you are expected to attend scheduled classes in which you are enrolled. An instructor has the authority to drop a student who violates written attendance policies. Instructors are not obligated to hold seats for students who are enrolled but do not attend the first class meeting.”

I like this policy because it allows me to make my own decisions on attendance. For on-line classes my “attendance” is the punctual turn in of assignments and participation in forums, e-mails, etc. When a student gets behind in 3 consecutive assignments, they are dropped for lack of attendance. Needless to say I send out alerts, warning, etc.

Jerry Cellilo, Counselor and Faculty, Computers, Foothill Community College, CA

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My own rather spare attendance policy reads as follows: “Though I do not take formal attendance, there will be a for-credit assignment assigned, turned in, or done during nearly every class.  If you are absent much, your grade will sink rapidly.  In-class activities may not be made up; homework assignments may be turned in one day late for half-credit.” 

This part of the course is worth 15% for my standard English classes, and 20% for remedial sections. My attendance policy evolved as a result of the recognition that while students being involved in the daily class activities was crucial to their achieving course goals, their mere presence in the room was not equivalent to participation.  Thus, I arrange it so most course activities, both individual and group, create paper evidence for which I can give the student(s) credit.  The time spent judging or commenting need not be cumbersome: I do not give points for these assignments on the basis of correctness, but solely on the basis of reasonable effort, so a student who consistently shows up and tries can realistically gradually accumulate a large perfect (or nearly so) score for this component of the course.  The intent is that students who take part in these exercises see that their efforts count for something, while those who evade doing actual work in class see others getting credit that they do not.

–David Sierk, Faculty, English, Cuyahoga Community College, OH

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