Summit High cuts tardies with new program |

Summit High cuts tardies with new program

Summit Daily/Mark Fox

Over the past few years at Summit High School, administrators faced a challenge: ensuring students made it to class before the bell rang. Too many students were showing up late, and there wasn’t much in the way of consequences. So, after researching how other schools dealt with the problem, the high school started implementing tardy stations this school year. And so far they’ve been effective: There were only 1,121 tardies first semester this year, compared to 4,255 first semester last school year. There are 750 students who attend the high school.

“All the research states that attendance is the single greatest factor affecting academic success, and it’s also the easiest to control,” said Brett Tomlinson, assistant principal of the high school. “We had a challenge ensuring everyone gets to class.”

In past years, students would receive an after-school detention after nine tardies. Tomlinson said the system was a beast to follow, and school officials ended up trying to track 100 students at a time who had already hit eight tardies.

“It became very unmanageable very quickly,” he said.

Now, if a student is late to class, they must check in at one of two tardy stations at the school. They are then assigned a 20-minute lunch detention that day, or the next day if the tardy occurs after lunch. Students with a valid excuse – like a doctor’s appointment – are not given detention. Additionally, students also receive an after-school detention after five tardies. Tomlinson said the threat of immediate punishment has led to a sharp decrease in tardies.

Summit High studied several different schools’ initiatives. Tomlinson said some educators have teachers lock their doors right after the bell rings, leaving late students to be swept up for immediate detention. He said that only hurts students academically.

“What we didn’t like was students were missing class time,” he said. “Our goal was to get more students to get to class, rather than give them another excuse to not be in class.”

Summit High ended up following a model similar to one in the Cherry Creek area.

“What stood out to us was that they decreased their tardies very quickly, but student achievement increased.”

And, so far, the same pattern is occurring at Summit. Tomlinson said officials separated students into five groups before this school year started, depending on the number of tardies high schoolers had the year before. Those with five or less had the highest GPA, and those with 20 plus had the lowest – averaging about 71 percent GPA. After tardy stations were implemented, Tomlinson said GPAs started to rise.

Tomlinson said there are definitely more factors contributing to grades, but the stations have proved to be one positive influence.

Tai Sposato, one of the two campus supervisors who oversees the program, said the response from students is mixed, with many feeling it’s not necessary. He said he doesn’t mind explaining to kids why the program is in place, especially because tardies are down and academic performance is up. Sposato staffs one of the stations every day, and said some of the excuses students give can be humorous – one kid even said he was attacked by a raccoon.

“Some of these kids will certainly try to stretch the truth,” he said with a laugh.

Tomlinson said many parents were concerned at first the threat of detention would cause their children to drive faster in bad weather, but the school has been lenient when it’s snowing.

“I think once the bad weather came they realized we were applying good judgment and flexibility on those days,” he said.

Both Sposato and Tomlinson said the program is still a work in progress, and they are looking at ways to tweak it next year – like allowing kids two freebies before they get detention. But, so far, they both said it has been effective. Even last year’s most habitual offenders are making it to their seats in time.

“Sometimes those first few minutes are the most critical minutes of the class,” Tomlinson said. “For a student to miss that, they may be missing a lot.”

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