BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Going to school every day could pay off for many Biloxi students. On Wednesday, the Biloxi School District announced that it is testing an incentive program to boost its attendance rate. The pilot program rewards students who make good grades and have few absences.
Biloxi Junior High teacher Elizabeth Williams wants to see every seat in her classroom filled.
"We need kids at school, and attendance has always been an issue for us, especially with our struggling students," said Williams. "If they miss a day, especially in Language Arts and we're on a block schedule, they're missing two hours of instructional time and that time is precious."
So, the district came up with this incentive. You don't have to take the semester exam if you keep up your grades and have very few absences.
"I'm really excited about it. It makes you want to come to school," said seventh grader Laney Sala.
"I think it's good, because it'll motivate students to come to school and start making good grades," said eighth grader Heath Schmidt.
The pilot program only affects students from grades six through 12.
Students can be exempt from exams for a particular class if they meet these requirements:
* A average and have no more than three absences, excused or unexcused.
* B average and no more than two absences.
* C average and no more than one absence.
* Even students who make a D average can qualify if they don't miss any days of school.
"The student that has zero absences is giving the effort. They're coming, putting in the time, they're giving the effort to do the best that they can, so we don't want to penalize them for that," said Biloxi Junior High Principal Marcus Boudreaux.
Students can choose to take the semester exam if they wish. Educators hope by raising the attendance rate in Biloxi, which averages around 96 percent, it will also boost grades and graduation numbers.
"I think the kids are going to love it, and I think it's going to be another way that we can get them to attend school," said Williams. "We need them here, because if they're absent, we can't teach them. I was very pleased as a teacher, because I feel like it gives every student an opportunity to be a part of it."
Another reason to boost the attendance rate has to do with a Mississippi law that requires students to attend 63 percent of the day in order to be counted present. If a child misses class, school districts could lose funding from the state.
The incentive program will officially start Sept. 2. It is only in effect for this semester. However, if it's successful, the district plans to continue it.