Carlmont reflects on the flaws of asynchronous attendance


Andrew Shu

When a student is marked absent, their parents receive an automated phone call from the school. On asynchronous Wednesdays, those calls were frequent.

The 2020-2021 school year at Carlmont High School comprised of a straightforward weekly plan. Every day, students attend several classes out of their course schedule, except on Wednesday.

No Zoom classes occur on the third day of the school week. Instructors are still required to monitor their students by assigning work in the form of surveys or assignments on tight deadlines. Submitting these assignments indicated whether or not a student was present for the corresponding class.

Consequently, Wednesday became particularly burdensome for many students. Many of them struggled to complete the expansive workload within the time allotted.

An underlying issue with the variety of teachers’ asynchronous attendance assignments was that there were so many that it was easy to overlook one. Any late or unsubmitted work was synonymous with an absence, meaning that a student could be marked absent multiple times in a day for different courses. Such absences were a root of dissatisfaction for students and their parents on Wednesday nights.

“I was marked absent about once or twice a month,” said Carlmont sophomore Matthew Korn. “Sometimes I forgot to do a required attendance assignment, and even sometimes because the teacher forgot to take attendance.”

According to Carlmont Vice-Principal Gregg Patner, this system was far from optimal. Patner believes asynchronous attendance is complicated because students are not physically present within a classroom.

There are two aspects to attendance — the physical, where students are merely present, and the engagement in schoolwork. Even so, the interpretation of ‘attendance’ varies depending on the teacher, which made Wednesdays difficult for students.

What did attendance mean in your first-period class versus your sixth-period one? To avoid all that confusion, after hearing all of the complaints, we switched to having students log in to Canvas to demonstrate they’re engaged.”

— Vice-Principal Gregg Patner

“The Wednesday attendance on asynchronous days was a source of confusion throughout the district. Teachers weren’t exactly sure what their responsibilities were because the kids were not physically in the classroom,” Patner said.

On Wednesday, January 27, Carlmont switched its asynchronous attendance to a single, straightforward task. The only thing students were required to do to be considered present was to log in to Canvas. This was immediately preferable to the previous sequence of assignments.

“I prefer the new method because now it is a much more simplified process, and it is almost always the student’s fault if they get marked absent,” said Korn.

Not only is asynchronous attendance now much less demanding, but it also holds students accountable for their presence. Logging out and logging back in again is extremely simple and failure to do so entirely lies within students’ responsibilities.

“I prefer the new method of logging into Canvas because it’s easier to do one thing instead of completing assignments from all my classes,” said Myles Hu, a freshman.

Work is still assigned on Wednesdays but does not count for attendance, eliminating the need for assignments to be due immediately after the asynchronous school day is over. The attendance change allows students and teachers to participate in academics instead of dealing with false truancies. Since its implementation, there has been a noticeable shift in student attendance rates.

“Our attendance has gotten better,” said Patner. “The number of students that were marked absent on that first Wednesday when the login attendance was implemented was lower than before. It’s been really good both here and across the district.”