If you're a Berkeley High School student, there's a new reason to go to school today — your classmates are depending on you to help them win a school-wide competition.
All four grades will compete against each other and the class with the best attendance record of the semester will be rewarded with a movie night at a private theater or another such activity.
The idea came from Daniel Roose, who became the BHS dean of attendance in August 2011. According to the Berkeley High Jacket newspaper, Roose "wanted to give students positive incentives for going to class" rather than the usual negative consquences for skipping out.
The effort is being made in response to poor attendance levels at Berkeley High, where 60 percent of the school’s 3,300 students are regularly ditching classes. Because state funding of local school districts is based largely on average daily attendance, student absences have directly impacted the Berkeley Unified School District's revenue. BUSD lost well over $2 million as a result of truancies in the 2010-11 school year, .
To counter the issue, Berkeley High has doubled staff in the attendance office and sent thousands of truancy letters home this school year as part of its revised notification system, which includes telephone calls to the homes of truant students. The school has also indicated that it will begin exercising its legal right to have the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) confiscate drivers licenses and permits of students who repeatedly violate truancy rules.
Current attendance rules stipulate that students with more than three unexcused absences are barred from attending school functions, such as dances.
But the school wants to offer perks — not just penalties — and Berkeley High's student leadership team came up with the idea of a movie night at a private theater, or perhaps even an event during summer vacation, for the winner of the attendance competition.
The hope is that students will respond to the competitive atmosphere by attending school more regularly, and encouraging classmates to attend too.