District Will Track Students to Boost Attendance
Should schools be able to keep tabs on a student’s location?
Texas schools are funded per student in attendance, so budgets hinge on the accuracy of morning roll call. The use of Radio Frequency Identification tags could improve accuracy, but some consider them to be an invasion of privacy.
RFIDs are small beacons that both transmit and receive information. They’re often used to track product inventory. But some school districts have attached RFIDs to students’ photo-ID cards, allowing administrators to know which students are on campus.
The technology is similar to that of a two-way radio: a transmitter sends a signal to the tag and the tag responds. The transmitter then reports data to computer software.
RFIDs can be used to track nearly anything. One future use for the technology may be in retail. Experts have envisioned RFIDs on products, enabling shoppers to bypass check-out lines and simply walk out of the door. Software would automatically deduct the bill from shoppers’ bank accounts.
But the use of this technology in schools is new and controversial. Nearly 4,200 students will be a part of a RFID pilot program this fall in the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio. And because the technology can pinpoint a student’s location, some parents are worried it could be used for the wrong purposes like identity theft and kidnapping.
Northside spokesperson Pascual Gonzalez says only school administrators will be operating the software for RFIDs, and students can only be tracked when on campus.
The technology is pricey. It will cost the Northside district nearly half a million dollars to institute and another $100,000 to maintain. But the reward from the Texas Legislature for higher attendance at Northside ISD is expected to be about $1.7 million.