Taft HS implements ‘hallway sweeps’ in effort to curb tardiness; Taft chosen as ‘Top 5 Neighborhood School’
by BRIAN NADIG
Taft High School has begun implementing “hallway sweeps” to cut down on the high number of tardies, which have totaled more than 800 on some days during the first period on the varsity campus, 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.
Subsequent periods have as many as 200 students in the hallways after the class bell rings, school officials said. The varsity campus has about 3,000 students.
It was reported at the Nov. 15 meeting of the Taft Local School Council that tardy students have their student ID scanned, generating an automatic e-mail to parents notifying them their child was not in class at a specific time. First-period sweeps started Nov. 15, and starting on Monday, Nov. 28, they are to be conducted all periods.
“I think it is going to be very effective, (but) before they receive discipline they have the right to be heard,” LSC chairperson Paul Connolly said. He added that there will be more “by-in” to school’s efforts to address tardiness if students are “heard.”
“Our kids never get disciplined without a conversation,” principal Mark Grishaber told the council. “People are a little leery of even getting one tardy. I tell kids a couple of tardies (on your record) isn’t going to get you one way or the other.”
Students have been shown a video explaining the sweeps and the need to get to class on time, Grishaber said.
In a few circumstances a tardy can be changed from unexcused to excused if appropriate to do so, following a talk with a parent, Grishaber said.
A student’s first couple of tardies can result in conversations between the student and teacher and a conflict resolution specialist, with a possible call to the parent, Grishaber said. An in-school suspension, which allows the student to complete their assignments, also is possible in more extreme cases, he said.
Grishaber said after the council meeting that he expects the hallway sweeps to reduce the number tardies in the first period by about 100 a day.
On Nov. 15 there were 842 reported tardies on the varsity campus compared to 624 on Nov. 16, the day after the first weep.
The ultimate goal is to identify the students who are chronically late and to address their situation so that they arrive on time and get to class by the start, assistant principal Eric Flores said. “We are collecting data,” he said.
The school’s Professional Personnel Leadership Committee has called for initiatives to address tardiness and other behavioral issues.
“We have heard parents and students on this issue loud and clear. The status quo at the varsity campus is untenable, and we are happy to have a partner in administration in addressing some of these issues,” LSC faculty member Scott Plencner said, reading from the PPLC report.
The committee is creating a subcommittee on climate and culture matters that will work with the administration.
The committee discussed whether the school’s “no-zero” grading policy, which calls for the lowest grade on an assignment or test, to be 50 percent, has contributed to “attendance and engagement rates,” the report said. One recommendation called for missing assignments to be eligible for a 40-percent score.
Grishaber said after the meeting that he does not see a correlation between tardiness and the grading policy.
The vast majority of the late-arriving students go to class willingly but are simply taking their time with no sense of urgency, Grishaber said. He said that the sweeps are intended to correct that.
Under a more traditional policy, grades “A” through “D” have a range of 10 percentage points, except for “F,” who goes from zero to 59 percent, and the Taft policy evens out the distribution, Grishaber said.
School officials have said that the policy may prevent a student who has “one bad day” from having their semester grade significantly lowered due to one subpar performance.
Grishaber said that some elementary school principals have indicated to him that their schools are implementing a grading policy similar to Taft’s.
School starts at 7:45 a.m., but Grishaber stresses to students to arrive at 7:30 a.m. so that they can get to their first class on time.
On the freshman campus at 4071 N. Oak Park Ave., where about 1,200 students are enrolled, about 175 arrived late on Nov. 15 and 100 the following day.
Until last week late-arriving students were being sent straight to class on the freshman campus but now their ID cards are being scanned, with notifications sent to their parents, before they proceed to class, Grishaber said.
Also at the meeting, a vote on a proposal to conduct a staff survey that would be part of the principal evaluation process fell one vote short of passage. “It’s just another piece of evidence that you can use as you see fit,” Plencner said of the proposed survey.
The PPLC recommended the survey, whose questions would have been taken from the Chicago Public Schools-created principal evaluation form that LSCs use.
Some LSC members noted that the school system already requires an annual “5Essentials” survey for students and teachers and that a summary of those results are publicly available.
It also was announced that CPS has chosen Taft as a “Top 5 Neighborhood School” for the highest growth rates in freshmen on-track and 4-year and 5-year graduation rates.
Grishaber said that in recent weeks he has been conducting class observations and that there has been solid instruction going on and that student cell “phones are put away.” Classes have “phone trees” where students can store their phones.
It also was reported that the school has had some additional transportation expenses in recent weeks in part because of the success of the sports program. “So many of our teams are competing in the playoffs and going far in the playoffs,” Grishaber said.
Also, the “Pledge of Allegiance” on the council agenda has been replaced with “Moment for Personal Commitment,” with the chair asking if someone wants to lead the council in the pledge, which Grishaber did at the Nov. 15 meeting.
In 2021, the council considered to stop reciting the pledge at meetings, but it voted to keep it on the agenda. Not all councils say the pledge.
The next LSC meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, at the varsity campus.