Frequently, students with disabilities are not able to attend a class (due to doctors or specialists appointments, illness, behavior, tardiness, related services, etc.). Absences affect a student’s ability to learn: the skills, content taught in the class, and restrain the teacher’s ability to measure the student’s learning.
Educators and the Texas Legislature are concerned about attendance and a law was passed to address this issue. The intent is to provide support for students to master the curriculum and be prepared for the next grade or course. The rules on the law are referred to as “the 90% rule”. A student with a disability and their family may be told that the student is or about to be in violation of the 90% rule. On the other hand, schools must establish ways for students to make up work or regain credit or a final grade. If a student misses more than 75% of a class, they might not be allowed to earn credit, so it is important students and parents are aware of this rule and make up work as soon as possible. When students are struggling and feel that they cannot catch up, it is common for many to consider dropping out or to drop out. To help parents and youth understand more the provisions of this rule, let’s consider the details:
Section 25.092 contains the provision of law commonly referred to as “the 90 percent rule,” which applies to a student in any grade level from kindergarten through grade 12. Section 25.092 does not apply directly to open-enrollment charter schools. However, some open-enrollment charter schools have included “the 90 percent rule” in their charters.
Section 25.092 conditions credit or a final grade for a class on a student’s attendance for at least 90 percent of the days a class is offered. A student who is in attendance for at least 75 percent, but less than 90 percent, of the days a class is offered may be given credit or a final grade if the student completes a plan approved by the principal that provides for the student to meet the instructional requirements of the class. If the student is under the jurisdiction of a court in a criminal or juvenile justice proceeding, the student may not receive credit or a final grade by completing such a plan without the consent of the presiding judge. The board of trustees is required to appoint one or more attendance committees to hear petitions from students who do not earn class credit or a final grade through a plan approved by the principal. An attendance committee may give class credit or a final grade due to extenuating circumstances. The board is also required to adopt policies establishing alternative ways for such students to make up work or regain credit or a final grade lost because of absences.
Under §25.092, a district may establish ways to make up work or regain credit or a final grade that are workable in consideration of the circumstances. The section does not require that students spend a certain amount of time in a “Saturday school” or other educational setting equal to time missed during regular school hours. The district should be prepared with other options that give the student a reasonable opportunity to make up work or regain credit or a final grade even under challenging circumstances, including excessive absences that occur late in the school year. Additionally, this law is not intended to penalize students for not attending a class before the student was enrolled in the class. Students, including migrant students or transfer students, who could not have attended a class before enrollment should not have the days of class that occurred before their enrollment counted against them for purposes of “the 90 percent rule,” As with any other student, to receive credit a student who enrolls after instruction for the year or semester has begun is required to demonstrate academic achievement and proficiency of the subject matter as required under §28.021 and 19 T.A.C. §74.26.
If a district offers an educational program outside of regular school hours as a means for students to make up work and meet the level of attendance required under §25.092, a district may charge a fee for such an education program under §11.158(a)(15) and (h) with restrictions. The school district may assess the fee only if the student returns a form signed by the student’s parent or other legal guardian stating that the fee would not create a financial hardship or discourage the student from attending the program. The fee may not exceed $50. Also, under §25.092(b) and (f), the board must provide at least one alternative for making up work or regaining credit or a final grade that does not require a student to pay a fee under §11.158(a)(15). The availability of that alternative must be substantially the same as the availability of an educational program for which a fee is charged.
TEA Commissioner Letter about attendance, admission, records and tuition in public and open-enrollment charter schools (August 19, 2016) http://tea.texas.gov/About_TEA/News_and_Multimedia/Correspondence/TAA_Letters/Attendance,_Admission,_Enrollment_Records,_and_Tuition_-_August_2016/