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POLL: Do You Approve of 'Swipe' Attendance Technology for Manchester High School?

Manchester High School will begin a new student tracking program which will require students to "swipe" in their arrival at school and at various points throughout the day.

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.

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Aba Zaba July 16, 2012 at 02:03 PM
It's a great idea. Malloy wants school system monies to be matched to student behavior, grades and performance. Lets put some more responsibility on the students and parents. One should be placed in each classroom too for attendence. Let them learn how to punch a clock and not get paid for their tardiness.
Gary Benson July 16, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Cutting classes usually results after the student shows up for the day, then leaves. That is tracked through the classroom teachers taking attendance. Punching in does not mean the student will be in class, it simply means the student entered the building. I would need to know much more about how this system works. I would be in favor of any effort that would require actions of responsibility and accountability on the part of the students and parents. I would also do away with the open campus period.
Kristine Blake July 16, 2012 at 03:49 PM
This is why we went to the Magnet School system in Hartford in 2002. The students want to be there and the classes are all honors, that our son has attended. He is going to be a senior and the University Magnet of Science & Engineering has a 100% graduation rate and 100% go onto college. They do not have these attendance issues.
Rob Laughlin July 16, 2012 at 03:55 PM
I too fear 'Big Brother' and this is not it. All technology is not bad. Students should be showing up for classes and if they do not, it should be known. Perhaps this will make up for the cuts to teachers and staff and growing class sizes, where tracking students in over crowded classrooms would be a real problem. The draw backs with the system are the cost, the fact it does not go far enough and the added cost for expansion to the classrooms. Unless it is in each classroom, it is NOT worth the money at this time.
jen markstein July 16, 2012 at 06:41 PM
it's a good start should be for each class also as well as the rest rooms and library will make it easier for staff to monitor students whereabouts
cris July 18, 2012 at 01:34 AM
I think kids are going to be kids but there learning how to be on there own gaurented that they will find away around it what happens if the system crashes huh? teens are very smart when it comes to technolgy its not hard to hack into school systems plus evry teen has watchned tv to know how to get out of school without any problems
Rob Laughlin July 18, 2012 at 02:09 AM
It is school, not prison. The opportunity for an education is meant to improve the lives of the students, their families and our society. Learning is not meant to be seen as punishment. A system for tracking attendance is more an administrative tool. It might allow teachers more time to teach rather than being attendance takers and security guards. Over 50,000 people use a swipe card reader everyday where I work and I have not heard George Orwell' 1984 brought up even once. Students arriving at school should be prepared to learn and do their school work. It is their job. Yes, Chris, if students truly do not want to be there, they will find a way out. We should feel bad for them. School is not for their entertainment. It is not babysitting to help the parents. School is a gateway for a better life.
kathy johns July 18, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Looks like you skipped spelling class!
Mary Silverwind July 18, 2012 at 04:17 PM
What's to stop students from swiping their card and then leaving? or giving their card to a friend to swipe for them? Same thing for seniors with open campus privileges. Sounds good in theory but students can always find a way to beat the system if they really don't want to be in school.
cris July 20, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Honestly the teachers don't pat attention to whose in class or who's late their busy on their phones and other teachers coming into classrooms to gossip about others and leaving the students on there own. Yes its school not prison or Bradley International they shouldn't be treated as if they are in prison or an airport!
Jon Crickmore July 20, 2012 at 11:41 AM
Hey whats another 50 grand down the drain. No money to fix our schools but money for key cards. I guess it would make sense if they were going to get rid of some of the security to offset the price tag. Maybe we should just install tracking devices in the kids and then you can follow every move they make. What a joke this school system is.
Brian Hurlburt August 13, 2012 at 06:42 PM
The real problem begins at home. There will be no sustainable approach until parents are held responsible. It is time to face the real issues head on, and stop dancing around them with solutions that have not been successful.
Jane August 21, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Personally I feel like most of the people voting or having an opinion on this article haven't attended highschool in a very long time. Reading and hearing about what happens at the highschool is way different then actually attending. The changes they are making to the school are making kids not want to go there. I honestly feel sorry for the kids that have to attend MHS. The swipe system is going to have so many problems like everything else at MHS, which will cause so many more hassles for students. Maybe for once people should focus on the good kids who actually do what they are supposed to do. Too much is being done for the kids who could care less.
Brian Hurlburt August 21, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Jane, When I read the comments above, it seems most are against this system. I know my daughter isn't in favor, because she doesn't' believe the system will achieve what is is intended to.
paige March 27, 2013 at 07:49 PM
They have 100% because those who can't, or don't want to, make the grades drop out and go back to their home town school.
paige March 27, 2013 at 07:50 PM
So true.

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