Student Well-Being

It’s 10 a.m.: Do You Know Where Your Students Are?

By Ross Brenneman — January 04, 2013 1 min read
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As with grizzly bears and migratory birds, putting GPS trackers on the elusive American high school student (Americanus adolescencus) is becoming a new national activity.

In attempts to mitigate truancy, more school districts are turning to technology, that they might find where absent students go (salmon fishing?) and lure them back. In Austin, Texas, one of the newest experimenters, schools are seeing progress after installing a GPS tracking program that requires consent from both students and parents before initialization.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, students receive a GPS device upon entering the program and must check in with the school multiple times a day, including at the beginning and end, and around lunchtime. Seventy-five students initially enrolled in the program last year, and this year, early numbers show average attendance increased from 78 percent to 90 percent.

The Austin initiative differs from the system implemented by the Northside, Texas, district. That tracking program, the Radio Frequency Identification System, has ruffled a few feathers for being mandatory, and even allegedly provoked a cyber attack made in protest of the tagging of Northside’s 4,200 students.

The Dallas-based AIM Truancy Solutions runs Austin’s program, and stands to make up to $1 million annually for demonstrable results, which means there’s good opportunity in GPS locating services. After all, Texas is one of many states that uses attendance to determine funding, both on an annual basis and in awarding grant money, such as for School Improvement Grants. So districts are understandably keen to make sure students come to class.

GPS tracking isn’t the only method employed to lessen absenteeism, of course. New longitudinal data systems, used to identify struggling students, make sure to track attendance so that early interventions might be provided. Some districts use truancy officers to hold parents responsible, while other districts try to offer services that attract students to school, such as haircuts. Because teenagers love themselves a haircut.

And some districts don’t really know what to do, given limited resources, but they’re aware of the problem.

For our part, we suggest that when a student is absent, check for any nearby parades.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.