Texas School District Approves RFID Tag Trial for Student Attendance
May 28, 2012 11:40 AM
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Some parents are worried about the privacy of their children
A school district in San Antonio, Texas is looking to track some of its students using Radio Frequency Identification System (RFID) tags next year.
Northside Independent School District hopes to
use RFID tags
in two of its schools in order to help protect its students and also increase revenue.
RFID tags are ID cards that track the location of the holder. Northside Independent School District wants to take part in a trial next year where John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School students will carry the RFID tags at all times. This is about 6,290 students total.
"We want to harness the power of the technology to make schools safer, know where our students are all the time in school, and increase revenues," said Pascual Gonzalez, district spokesman. "Parents expect that we
always know where their children are
, and this technology will help us do that."
Parents in the school district have had varied reactions to the news. Some have been supportive while others question the need for such invasive technology.
"I would hope teachers can help motivate
students to be in their seats
instead of the district having to do this," said Margaret Luna, a parent in the district. "But I guess this is what happens when you don't have enough money."
RFID tags could help the school district offset cuts in state funding because attendance plays a huge role in determining revenue. With a more exact attendance count via RFID tags, Northside could receive a total of $1.7 million next year from higher attendance and Medicaid reimbursements for busing special education students. If the trial proves successful, RFID tags could go districtwide and bring in a much larger payoff.
The district will pay $525,065 to deploy the trial next year, then another $136,005 annually to run it. Each RFID tag is $15, which students will have to pay if they lose it.
While the payoff could be great for the district, privacy is the main concern of parents. The district says students will only be tracked while they are physically in the school, and only authorized administrative officials will have access to RFID information. However, there are concerns regarding kidnapping if someone were to
hack into the system
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) battled a California school in 2005 for using such technology, citing worries over identity theft and kidnapping.
The Northside school board approved the RFID program last Tuesday after a long debate over privacy and potential revenue increases.
My San Antonio
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RE: Say what?!
5/28/2012 5:09:50 PM
They're operating on the principle that education costs money. All government agencies are concerned with ensuring they are adequately funded to achieve their aims. There may not be a 1:1 correspondence between expenses and the quality of education, but we can leave that aside for the moment, because there's even more wrong with their logic here. A school receives funding from the State based on attendance. The school district here is assuming one of two things - either that their current attendance numbers are marking kids as absent who are in fact present in class, or that students will be more likely to attend classes with an RFID attendance system. Neither of those assumptions make much sense.
Students already assume they will be marked absent if they aren't in class. A RFID isn't going to change that. Perhaps it would be harder to hide out on campus, but kids who are skipping class don't need to keep their ID on them. While teachers are prone to errors in keeping attendance, my experience has been that it is almost entirely a matter of marking students as present who are in fact absent, and not the other way around. So it would seem the school district will be losing money, not just in implementing a RFID system, but also from a reduction in reported attendance.
When a new, more accurate map of France was completed in the 18th Century, Louis XV is said to have remarked that the cartographers, through their accuracy, had lost him more territory than he had gained in conquest (France was discovered to be something like 15% smaller than older maps suggested). I have a feeling this new, more accurate data, is going to leave the school district similarly disappointed.
RE: Say what?!
5/28/2012 6:46:11 PM
This makes much more sense. The district would only consider these things (well, hopefully) if they thought that knowing you are being monitored would keep kids in school. But that physical attendance only gets money for the district if there is an actual improvement in attendance.
But attendance is a baffling statistic to use. It shows physical presence, that's it. The kid is free to sleep through class, or do anything else non-distracting so far as the teacher feels like doing something about it. My point here is that attendance and education are not necessarily related. We live in a world of compulsory education. Beyond high school it is optional, and you generally find students want to be in class in college and especially graduate school. In high school, kids want nothing to do with it.
Especially the claim that they could get $1.7M from the state. Relative to what? Do they get nothing right now because they can't "prove" their claims on attendance? If they get something, then this $1.7M is an absolute value, what is important is the gain they would get with RFID.
(The more cynical take on this is that one of the district board members is also an insider of the RFID company.)
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