Reduce Tardies in Your School

I have worked in many different secondary schools, and they all have one thing in common… They all at one time or another have had a “Tardy Problem”. That is, many students did not feel the importance of showing up for class on time, and wandered to class one, two, or even five minutes late (some students would do this several times per day). Teachers would grumble about having to deal with tardies, and a building with 50 teachers in it would have 50 different opinions of how to solve the tardy problem. Everyone felt that the administration should do something about the situation, but no one was quite sure what that “something” was.

I developed a plan about five years ago called a “Tardy Reduction Plan”. Notice I did not call it a “Tardy Elimination Plan” because I am not so naive as to think I could eliminate tardies altogether. If I were THAT gullible, I would also believe that a person could lose 54 pounds by eating drive-thru fast food! This plan will reduce tardies by a LOT, though. Teachers love the plan because the tracking of tardies and the punishment of the wrongdoers is taken out of their hands. Everything is handled by the administration… Here’s how the plan works:

Once the tardy bell rings, teachers simply shut and lock their doors. Administrators and/or teachers on their conference period “sweep” tardy students to a predetermined area (we use the cafeteria), where they are issued a “Tardy Slip” from the tardy book. The tardy book is made up of two layers of NCR paper, which automatically makes a copy of the writing from the top sheet (we have our tardy books made by a printing company in town). The pages can hold 10 slips, and the slips are perforated for easy removal from the book (like a receipt book). An example of what the pages of our tardy book looks like can be found at

Once the student is issued his tardy slip, he can be admitted to class. An administrator then enters all of the student tardy information into a spreadsheet, like the example posted on the same website as the tardy book documents. The date of each student’s tardy can be entered, as well as what period the tardy occurred.

The last Saturday of the month is designated as a “Saturday School” day for chronically tardy students. Students with four or more tardies during the month must stay in Saturday School for fifteen minutes for each tardy earned. For example, a student with four tardies will have to serve an hour, a student with ten tardies will serve two and a half hours, and so on. Students with three or less tardies will not be asked to attend Saturday School. After the last Saturday of the month, all tardies will be reset back to “zero”, and the process repeats itself.

I host our Saturday School in the cafeteria, with the start of Saturday School being 7:00 a.m. I like making this experience as inconvenient for students (and parents) as possible. Students wait outside the school until 6:45 a.m., at which time I unlock the front doors of the school. Students then walk to the cafeteria, where I have placed stickers with each student’s name assigned to a certain table. I lock the front doors of the school at 7:05 a.m., and students are not admitted if they are late. My rationale is this: Why let a student arrive late for a punishment they earned for being chronically late? That would not make any sense… right?

Students are allowed to read, do homework, or otherwise sit quietly while serving their time. They are not allowed to communicate with each other in any way, nor are they allowed to have cell phones, video games, laptop computers, or other electronic devices. The cafeteria is so quiet, I am able to catch up on any work I have neglected to do during the week!

I know what your next question is… What happens to a student who skips Saturday School? Good question! I tell parents that students who miss Saturday School automatically have an hour added to their time for next month, and they are prohibited from attending any extracurricular activities until they serve their time. You can find the letter I send home to parents with the other documents I described at

Students will cry and beg to be let in to a football game, basketball game, pep rally, or dance… But you cannot let them in if they have not served their time. If you make exceptions, the whole system will break down! In December, we have a “Winter Formal” dance that is the highlight of the year. You can bet your bottom dollar (do we use that expression anymore?) that no students skip the November session of Saturday School!! Another thing that will cause the breakdown of this plan is the teacher who secretly lets students in after the tardy bell because they “almost” made it. Luckily, other teachers will let that teacher know their leniency is unacceptable.

Forrest Gump used to say “That’s all I have to say about that” when he got to the end of a story, and that’s what I am feeling right now about tardies. Implement the Tardy Reduction Plan in your building, and become a hero to your staff!