Electronic attendance system works, schools say

Baltimore and Philadelphia schools using a swipe-card attendance and security

system say it is a huge success.

Under the Comprehensive Attendance, Administration and Security System (CAAS),

students must scan a photo identification card when entering the building.

The information is then transferred into a computer that prints attendance

records for each teacher. The system is used in 14 high schools in Philadelphia

and eight in Baltimore.

For every class, teachers are provided with a list that tells them which

students should be there and which ones are legally excused. The teacher

then verifies the list and makes any necessary changes using a "bubble sheet"

that can be scanned by a computer. The computer then uses the sheets to

create a list of students who are absent or who cut class.

When a teacher is absent, the substitute is provided with the same sheet,

but with a picture next to each name, so they can easily identify students.

At George Washington High School in Philadelphia, Principal Sam Karlin said

the system helped improve class attendance. When the system was installed

in October, there were almost 1,000 cases of individual cuts per day. Now,

he said, there are about 250 cuts, done by about 80 students.

Not bad for a school with 3,000 students, Karlin said. "I think it's a wonderful

success. It tracks the kids, and they're aware of it."

George Washington High is also piloting a component to the program that

enables parents to look up their child's attendance online. The information

is updated twice daily — once immediately after the students enter the building

and again after school ends. With the student's seven-digit ID number and

a password, a parent can see what time the student entered school and if

the student skipped any classes.

The system also has an automatic calling feature that calls parents and

informs them if their child is absent or cut school.

In the future, Karlin said, the school might use personal digital assistants

that can be used to scan student's identifications when the student is in

the hall, checking the student's attendance records.

CASS is a product of School Technology Management Inc.

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