Chronic Tardiness Should Be Treated the Same as Absenteeism


You know that student that comes ridiculously late to school every day?  The one that roles in right around 3rd period? You know, the one you constantly have to remediate on the previous day’s lessons because they weren’t present for half of it? That student should be treated the same as a student who is chronically absent.

In general, we recognize the importance of not being absent, but students who are late everyday often fly under the radar. In many schools, students who consistently miss multiple classes a day are never held accountable outside of their actual academic progress. This should not be the case.

Schools and districts need to hold families accountable for getting students to school on time. It needs to be treated the same way as absenteeism because it presents the same challenges to learning:

1.       Being consistently tardy is like being consistently absent for morning classes.  

How late can a student come to school before they are considered absent? Many students push this limit every day. However, even students who miss what would be considered an “acceptable” portion of the day often miss the same classes.

Coming an hour and a half late to school is below the threshold of what most schools would consider officially absent for the day. If a student is  consistently coming in late at the same time, they are likely missing the same class every day. In the grand scheme of things, if a student comes to school at 9:15 every day and they are missing the class that starts at 8:00, they are effectively truant for that class, and likely to struggle academically. 

2.       It creates more work for teachers.

Teachers have to take the same actions for students who are chronically late as they do for students who are chronically absent. I suppose a student showing up 9:30 or 10:00 am is better than missing an entire day of school, but it is of very little consolation to me and the other teachers that teach their classes during the time they missed.

I still have to find make up work for that student. I still have to remediate that student on the content they missed. That is pretty much what I would have to do for students who were absent.

So quick review:

If being consistently late presents the same challenges as being absent for the student, and the same challenges as being absent for teachers…why do these students not receive the same consequences as chronically absent students?

This doesn’t even touch on the fact that allowing chronic tardiness enables bad habits and sets a poor example for students. It’s not a coincidence that students who are late arriving to school are often the same ones that are late in between classes too. Research shows these are habits they will carry with them into their adult life.

Schools can’t allow students and families to waltz in at whatever hour they please. The interventions they use for absent students should be used for their frequently late ones too.


Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.