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Education Innovations: Positive Attendance

Lauren Gilchrist

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Education Innovations: Positive Attendance

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The Story Behind Positive Attendance

In 2013, two separate members of the Skyward community had the same idea. Sauk Prairie High School and Nicolet High School were both looking for more efficient ways to take attendance to support their personalized learning objectives. They wanted to empower students to take control of their educational process with more flexibility than the traditional attendance model could support.  

When Shane Been (assistant principal – Sauk Prairie) and John Reiels (director of technology – Nicolet) independently approached Skyward with similar requests, our product management team took notice. Close collaboration ensued throughout the development process and Positive Attendance was born. 


How it Works

The classroom attendance procedure most people are accustomed to is not only time consuming for both teacher and student, it is also dependent on prepopulated student rosters. If students are not marked absent, they are assumed to be present. Positive Attendance flips this approach entirely. A student is absent until he or she checks in to a particular location.
When students enter the class or resource room, they "check in," thus marking themselves as present in that location without teacher intervention. PASS™ devices can be hooked up to the teacher’s computer or can stand alone. At Nicolet High School, Positive Attendance has allowed as many as 90 students to check in without delaying the start of the period. Positive Attendance gives educators and parents an opportunity to see where their student was scheduled to report during rostered periods and where they actually checked in throughout the day. 

[During resource period], we tell our students 'You have to go somewhere,' but we don't know where they are going to go until they get there. That's where Positive Attendance is really helpful. We mark students present where they need the help.
– John Reiels (@jreiels), director of technology, Nicolet High School


A Flexible, Personalized Learning Environment

The switch to Positive Attendance comes with numerous benefits, the most obvious being additional instructional time. By eliminating manual attendance processes, educators save five to ten minutes every day. Over the course of the school year, that equates to one full period of instruction for an entire month (and this calculation does not include peripheral considerations like the time it takes teachers to write out hall passes or students to walk from one end of the school to the other). 
Positive Attendance enables a perfect balance between freedom and control. It gives students the flexibility they desire and allows the school day to run smoothly, even without a set roster. But it also gives teachers oversight and the data they need to determine if students are making wise decisions during free time.
Since Positive Attendance allows schools to keep accurate records on where students spend their time, it can also play an important role in decision-making processes. Staff may notice, for instance, that students spend a lot of time in the science lab but very little time in the library. As a result, they may consider directing available funds to the science lab over the library – or using that money to turn the library into something more appealing to students, like a makerspace.
Real-time visibility into students’ actual locations can be a valuable safety feature as well. When you know where each student is, as opposed to just where they are supposed to be, you can respond more effectively should an emergency occur. 

Positive Attendance gives students the freedom to be active during the day.
– Shane Been, assistant principal, Sauk Prairie High School


Looking Ahead

We know that we're just starting to scratch the surface of Positive Attendance. As the logical next step for any district looking to pursue a future ready environment, this revolutionary practice supports a variety of goals by freeing up instructional time, empowering students, providing relevant decision-making data, and serving as a real-time safety feature.
These benefits are even being extended beyond classroom walls. We expect to see more districts using Positive Attendance at extracurricular events, such as school dances, where it’s difficult to keep track of students via rosters. We have also received interest in having wireless devices mounted on buses to help with headcounts and mitigate the risk of transportation snafus.
According to product line manager, Leah Kruger, one of the upcoming enhancements to the Positive Attendance technology will have a major impact on resident campuses, where students can use the system not only to check in to individual classrooms, but also to the different academic and residential buildings throughout the campus, not unlike systems already in place at the higher education level.


Learn More About Positive Attendance

To find out more about how Positive Attendance can support your personalized learning environment, download the product brief or contact us today. 


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