The darndest thing.

This school year I’ve suffered through career-highs in absences on test days. I say “suffered” because it means having to administer make-up tests, which means being stuck in my office before and/or after school for anywhere from thirty to ninety minutes. Last semester, I was pretty angry when more than one-seventh of my students missed a particular test. At least, I was pretty angry about that until two weeks ago, when over one-sixth of my students missed the test.

For the record, I have six sections, which means that the equivalent of a full classroom missed that test.

Now, some students, like the one with mono and the one whose mom just passed away, had entirely valid reasons for missing the test. But that explains just two of the thirty-odd absences. Still no word on the others.

Today was another test day. My first class got off to a rousing start: six of my twenty-four students were missing, including a few who still hadn’t made up the previous test. Needless to say, I was not happy. So I took a moment before the test to announce the new make-up policy: henceforth, make-up tests shall be short-answer and essay instead of multiple-choice and essay, and make-ups shall receive no curve.

That’s nothing draconian– after all, the absentees have the advantage of extra time to study, right?– but some eyes widened and some jaws dropped. I asked the students who bothered to show up if they’d mind texting the news to my other students, both those who were absent today and those who might be thinking about being absent today.

Within ten minutes, five of the six absentees showed up to take the test. Could’ve been coincidence, maybe traffic had held them up… but then I had fewer total absences today than I’ve had on any test day so far this year.

So goes the struggle to trick, intimidate, and, when necessary, extort our nation’s children into learning.