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Students at Evanston Township High School who miss more than eight class periods in one course may now receive a grade of F for the course rather than the No Credit (NC) status previously given to students exceeding the acceptable number of absences without a legitimate reason.

“(This) adjustment to the NC rule … will eliminate a loophole that has allowed students to avoid going to a class they chose but do not have an interest in attending,” Associate Principal Bruce Romain reported to the District 202 School Board on July 14. “Some students stop attending class when they fall behind in work or attendance. Some students use the NC to avoid receiving an F on their transcript, even though (based on the work they did for the class) they failed the course.”

According to the new policy, students who have more than eight absences in a class and who are receiving a failing grade will get an F for the class, which will appear on their transcript. Students who have more than eight absences in a class but who have managed to do enough work to receive a passing grade will be given an NC, as in the past, which means they will not receive credit for the course, even though they had earned a passing grade.

Students who exceed eight absences in a class can have their case reviewed by the Attendance Review Committee. Mr. Romain said “documented medical issues, homelessness and hospitalizations” are some of the “compelling circumstances” which would enable a student to receive credit for a course despite having missed more than the allowable number. The eight-absence limit is consistent with the Illinois School Code, said Mr. Romain.

“What options do students have to drop a class?” asked Board member Mary Wilkerson. “What if a student gets in a class, doesn’t like it, or they can’t do the work?”

“A student has until the 11th week of the semester to drop a class,” said Mr. Romain. “The problem is with a student who has the minimum number of classes. We require them to take six, and if dropping the class would drop them to five, we would usually keep that student in the class. But we would also look at if the student has been placed appropriately. We would also talk to the teacher about the effort being made by the student.”

Associate Principal Dr. Richard Bowers provided the Board with some recent statistics on the number of NCs and how many of them would have been converted to Fs had the new policy been in place the second semester of the 2007-08 school year.

Dr. Bowers said 212 students received at least one NC during the time period. That represents approximately 7 percent of the students at ETHS. Of the 212 receiving NCs, 65 were freshman, 55 were sophomores, 74 were juniors and 18 were seniors. Dr. Bowers further explained that a large number of the students receiving NCs also were failing the class: 144, or 68 percent.

Dr. Bowers also reported that there were slightly more male students (116) than female students (96) who received at least one NC, although the number of male and female students at ETHS is almost exactly the same. Among those receiving at least one NC were 127 black students (60 percent) and 44 Hispanic students (22 percent). These figures exceed the percentages of students of color at the school: According to the ETHS website, the school is 36 percent black and 11 percent Hispanic.

“When students do not attend class,” Mr. Romain explained, “it becomes a detriment to the student’s academic success. It also enables some students seeking free time instead of attending class, which may result in behavioral issues in the school. Lastly, our academic integrity … becomes compromised when a student is allowed to stop attending a class they are failing and receive no academic consequence.”