Attendance at Nicolet High School doesn’t look anything like that famous classroom scene in the 80s classic “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Traditional attendance has become a thing of the past since the district transitioned to a future-ready method.
More and more school districts are adopting flex periods in place of study halls to better meet students’ academic needs. These periods promote personalized learning as students choose where to learn and which resources to use. However, this flexibility poses a challenging question to educators and administrators: How will we keep tabs on students’ locations throughout the day?
Fortunately, Positive Attendance, a feature within the Skyward Student Management Suite, is the answer that has helped Nicolet High School administrators and educators incorporate flex periods and improve learning outcomes, while still keeping track of students’ whereabouts on campus.
John Reiels, Director of Technology at Nicolet High School, worked with other members of the school's leadership team to identify the need and initiate the district’s move to Positive Attendance. Reiels worked hand-in-hand with Skyward technology experts to create the future of attendance in today’s classrooms.
At Nicolet High School, Positive Attendance is primarily used for enrichment periods during which students have access to a wide variety of academic resources, including teachers, study groups, and the library.
“That time during the school day is really valuable, and I weighed out what our needs were,” Reiels explained. “We needed a way to account for students.”
"Positive Attendance is so awesome for us because we mark students present where they need the help, and they get the full benefit of the period."
With Positive Attendance, students at Nicolet can check in to classrooms or other school locations and register as “present.” The feature automatically builds a student roster for teachers based on students who are present, which eliminates the need for manual attendance processes. Date and time stamps are populated to reduce confusion about transition times or tardiness.
“Our students use Positive Attendance during resource periods to get help from teachers,” Reiels said. “We tell the students, ‘between third and fifth period you have to go somewhere,’ but we don’t know where they are going to go until they get there. And that’s where Positive Attendance is so awesome for us because we mark students present where they need the help, and they get the full benefit of the period.”
Positive Attendance is also useful in situations where traditional attendance can be very time-consuming, such as school dances and events, after-school clubs or athletic practices, and large classes. Accurate documentation of students' anticipated and actual check-in locations is crucial to have available in case of an emergency situation.
This innovative attendance method supports the emerging trends of mobile and individualized learning. “Teachers, counselors and administrators benefit from being able to view an individual student’s attendance to see what choices they are making during resource period in case students are not seeking help in classes where they need it,” Reiels said.
Teachers can now use an entire resource period to work with students in academic areas where they need support, rather than spending their time calling out attendance and writing hall passes. Administrators also have a real-time picture of student whereabouts and can spend less time locating students.
"Knowing that Skyward was responding to a need we had was a really powerful thing."
Access portals placed at designated locations and classrooms throughout the school allow students to check in to an area during resource periods. At check-in, students may enter a PIN on a keypad, swipe an ID card, or scan a code on their smartphones using the certified PASS™ devices developed by School Technology Associates, a Skyward business partner.
“We use a bar code reader, which can scan in as many as 90 students in a silent reading area,” Reiels explained.
Positive Attendance is a new concept with plenty of untapped potential in most districts, and administrators at Nicolet look forward to expanding their current efforts. Districts can implement additional uses for the attendance tracking method, such as identifying off-campus students during open lunch hours or tracking the location of students during council meetings, tutoring sessions, and even on the bus. In addition, some districts have set up Positive Attendance devices at off-site reunification points as an emergency preparation measure.
"We use a bar code reader, which can scan in as many as 90 students in a silent reading area"
“[From] here on out we can work together to create more products with district collaboration,” Reiels said. “[Positive attendance] really furthers the Skyward product, and it serves us really well as customers – knowing that Skyward was responding to a need we had was a really powerful thing.”