One of the most challenging parts of teaching is handling
student absences. Although it can be challenging for a student to get caught up on new content that was missed, it is even more challenging to get them to make-up a missed assessment. Students can be absent
for a variety of reasons – a dental appointment, a college visit, being sick or
an early sports dismissal.

On Tuesday, I
gave a quiz in PreCalculus on solving quadratic equations. All of the content onthe quiz was review from Algebra 2. There were 3 students who were dismissed early for sports. One student took the quiz early, one student took the quiz during a free period the next day and a third student did not have any free periods to take the quiz. Rather than have him wait another day to take the quiz, I had him take it during class on Thursday. (Note: With our new bell schedule this year, we did not have the PreCalculus class on Wednesday.) This was less than ideal. The student missed going over a review of the content he missed after the Tuesday quiz. In addition, he did not do well on the quiz despite the fact that I told him that the most commonly missed question was the one on solving a quadratic equation by completing the square. He earned 1 of 5 points on that question, because he got the right answer by factoring, but he showed no understanding of how to complete the square to solve the equation.

After 25 years of teaching, you would think I would have developed a way to effectively deal with absences for tests and quizzes. But the truth is that I usually have a list of three or four students that need to make up assessments at the end of a grading period. Often these students have waited over a month to make-up the assessment. At that point, they have forgotten much of the material that is on the quiz or test and usually don't do well. Our school has a make-up policy that allows me to give them a grade of "0", but that doesn't sit well with me either.

If anyone has suggestions on dealing with student absences, please post them in the comments below. Thanks in advance.

I usually leave make-up work with the learning specialist. That way, the student can complete the work whenever they are free without having to negotiate around my schedule. I give them an absolute deadline by which they have to complete the work. After he deadline, the grade turns to zero. Of course, I'll work around extenuating circumstances and such. I don't want to assign a zero, and often give partial credit for late make-ups, but I find the "zero after this date" policy gets their attention and I rarely have issues with missing work at the end of the term.

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