Coming this fall to will be a new “swipe” based system for tracking attendance. Using a new ID card, students will be required to check in to school upon arrival, and at various places during the day such as at the school nurse's office, guidance, or the library.
Plans for the program were presented to the Board of Education , and was met with a largely positive response. The primary aim of the tracking is to reduce incidences of students cutting classes, and using the technology to better administer information about absences.
Parents may also opt to receive a text message when their child swipes in at school.
The cost for the system's initial launch is $47,355 and will have an annual maintenance cost of approximately $6,000. The equipment consists of six full swipe stations, to be positioned at the entrances of the school, 12 mini-stations, a printer for ID cards, software, and a service contract.
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The swiping will update in the software within minutes, and classroom teachers will have access to student check-ins to compare against class attendance. Because the high school operates on a block schedule, the homeroom period, the traditional attendance tracking mechanism, does not exist, and the new electronic system would alleviate current tracking concerns.
Seniors with open campus privileges would be required to swipe when they leave campus and check in again when they return through the course of the day.
High school administrators communicated with other schools currently using the swipe system including two high schools in the Baltimore, MD area and a magnet school in Springfield, MA. One of the high schools in Baltimore reported a truancy figure of only 30 skipped classes in a school of 1,800 students.
“Our number is much higher, if we could get to 30 that would be a victory,” said Manchester High Principal Matthew Geary.
Upon presentation of the plan to the Board of Education, the administrators fielded questions from members.
Member Jason Scappaticci posed in jest, “is '1984' still on the reading list at the high school? Because it's going to mean so much more to [students] now.”
Recalling the famous novel by George Orwell about a dystopian future where party members were always under the watchful eye of the dictator, Big Brother; a common metaphor for the enforcement of social control through surveillance.
The discussion of the implications of the swipe system did not delve deeply into the question of surveillance, and much of the “Big Brother” references were said in fun, not as serious concerns. Administrators felt, and board members seemed to agree with them, that the system was an appropriate use of technology to help remedy the attendance issue at the high school.
Patch wishes to hear the community's thoughts on this upcoming program. Do you feel that it raises questions about the appropriateness of surveillance of students, even in this seemingly innocuous form?
Is this a good use of available technology to teach the lesson of responsibility and accountability for students own education?
Or might this be another case of the road to hell being paved by good intentions?
Once in place, will this sort of program lead to more onerous forms of surveillance and down the path to Winston Smith and Big Brother. Please answer the poll question and use the comments to share your opinions on this new program.