What could be a better reward for a student who comes to school every day than a set of wheels to get there?
South Carroll High School Principal David Booz will soon begin a series of drawings to give away three cars that are being refurbished by the school's Auto Technology II class.
The first will be for perfect attendance, and at least one of the other two will be limited to students who have a 4.0 grade-point average.
The first drawing, for a 1986 Ford Taurus, will be for students who had perfect attendance last school year. Although 70 students had perfect attendance, only 49 are eligible for the drawing.
To be eligible, students must have a driver's license and signed permission from their parents.
Booz isn't sure when he'll have the drawing. The car has to pass inspection first.
When students and parents heard of the car reward for attendance, more than a few started complaining that there was such reward for academic excellence.
Booz was able to round up two more cars -- all three are donated by people who knew they would be used this way -- for the auto shop to refurbish.
The 1986 Jetta and the 1987 Fox, however, are awaiting parts. They might not be ready until much later in the school year, because students in the auto technology course are fixing the cars when they have spare time in class.
"This is extra," Booz said. "We have to make sure we fulfill our curriculum."
The class is also working on a donated Dodge Caravan. But because minivans appeal to parents more than teens, that one will be raffled off as a fund-raiser by the school's Parent Teacher Student Organization.
An unusual offer
Giving students a fixed-up used car has been done before, though not often.
The Carroll County Career and Technology Center, which offers auto technology and auto body courses, has given away cars to reward its students.
Students earned chances based on several kinds of achievement.
"For a student who has good attendance already, maybe a car will be a little more incentive to be there every day," Booz said. "For students who do good work, this is a tangible reward. We're looking at this as an incentive and a reward."
Booz said he knows students might come to school sick when they might be better off at home.
"The kids who have perfect attendance obviously have come to school on days when they didn't feel well, but if a student is really sick, we want them to stay home," Booz said.
Schools in Carroll and all over Maryland have made a push for raising attendance as part of the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program. In the annual report cards the state issues to counties -- the next one comes out Thursday -- attendance is one of the areas they get "graded" on.
"I don't think it's fluff. I think it's important," said Peter B. McDowell, the county director of secondary education.
Perfect attendance isn't expected of most students -- it's like an honor society: a distinction a few students are capable of achieving, he said.
But in general, there is nothing wrong with imparting to students that although showing up isn't everything, it's the first step to everything else.
"We prepare kids to take the [Scholastic Assessment Tests], but we didn't prepare kids to be productive workers," McDowell said. "One of the reasons people get fired is absenteeism."
Attendance level surprising
He said attendance has increased beyond his expectations.
"When I was principal at Westminster High School [from 1978 to 1987], if our annual attendance averaged 92 percent, I did handsprings," McDowell said.
"The high schools now are all around 94 percent," he said. "The middle schools are around 95 percent, and the elementary schools are around 96 percent."
"It doesn't sound like a lot until you take 2 percent of the population of the schools and multiply it by 180 days of school," McDowell said.
"Then you're talking about tens of thousands more days when students are in school. It takes a tremendous initiative to increase attendance by 1 percent."
Pub Date: 12/08/96