Accountability through Automation
“How can technology give us the freedom to expand our offerings and expand opportunities for our students?”
Avoiding the Tardy Line
Those are the words of Shane Been, the forward-thinking assistant principal at Sauk Prairie High School. I know “innovative” is an overused buzzword, but it truly does apply to the leadership team at this southern Wisconsin school. We had the opportunity to meet with Shane to discuss how tapping into the potential of technology is making Sauk Prairie a more productive place to work and a better place to learn.
Several years ago, a typical morning in the Sauk Prairie main office looked like this: as many as 20 students standing in line at the counter, waiting for the secretary to handwrite tardy passes for each of them to bring to class. The image was not productivity at its finest.
Administrators decided to do something about it. With the help of Skyward and School Technology Associates, they implemented a new piece of technology to solve the problem: the tardy kiosk.
How it Works
When a student arrives late, he or she goes to the office and punches an ID number into the small kiosk on the counter. Several seconds later, the device prints out a tardy pass, complete with the teacher’s name and the time the student punched in. Then the student takes the pass to class.
Time saved: Tardy kiosks save valuable time for both students and staff. Students get to class faster and, since office staff are removed from the process, they are free to spend their mornings focused on more important tasks. Because the kiosk is set up with Skyward, the information goes directly into the system, so there’s no need for double entry.
Long-term efficiency: Skyward keeps track of how many times students have been tardy, and this number is included on the kiosk printout. In the words of Dan Hoerl, president of School Technology Associates, “When a student figures out they’re at 9 tardies, they act much different than if you asked them: ‘How many tardies have you had this year?’ ‘I think I have one.’ Really? The system says 9.” When a student reaches a pre-determined threshold, for instance 10 tardies, Skyward can automatically send a detention request via email. This feature eliminates the need to issue detentions manually, and who would miss that?
Straggler identification: When classrooms are set up with Positive Attendance (see below) and a tardy kiosk, it’s easy to see how much time students spend in the halls between receiving a tardy pass and arriving in class.
Positive Attendance is a new approach to roll call – and a major time saver at Sauk Prairie.
How it Works
In schools that use this system, students are assumed to be absent until they clock in. Positive Attendance readers are located in each classroom, as well as the gym, weight room, and any other location where students might spend time. When students arrive for class or a resource period, they punch in and are marked as present in Skyward. The devices can stand alone, so teachers don’t have to facilitate the process.
Safety: Since students must punch in and out of classrooms, it’s easy for staff members to tell, at any given moment, where each student is within the building, or to determine when the student checked in or out of a particular location. Positive Attendance devices can also serve as checkpoints during emergencies. If an emergency that requires an evacuation would occur at Sauk Prairie, part of the pre-planned response is to bring Positive Attendance devices outside so students can check in to confirm they’ve exited the building.
“Almost everybody who comes out with a referendum has security as one of their top goals… [Having the right] information can literally save lives.”
– Dan Hoerl, president of School Technology Associates
Responsibility: Students are responsible for clocking in, just like they would in the work force. They’re also given the opportunity to take more ownership of their learning by choosing where they want to spend their resource periods.
Time saved: Sometimes, less says more. In this case, I think one quote sums up the benefit of switching to automated attendance:
“If you save 5 to 10 minutes every single day, 8 hours a day, basically you have the ability to put about a month’s worth of instruction into a student without that teacher working a minute extra.”
– Kevin Duda, director of product strategy at Skyward
We covered Positive Attendance in even greater detail in an earlier episode of Education Innovations. For more information about the story behind it, the benefits, and what the future of Positive Attendance holds, check out this post!
A Word to the Wise
When you joined the Skyward community, you became connected to thousands of other passionate educators like Shane who use our tools to improve their processes. We encourage you to take advantage of opportunities to exchange ideas and learn from one another. Attend a user group, plan a trip to iCon, or meet with your steering committee. You may discover simple changes that yield big results, find ways to eliminate third party vendors, or uncover other ways to save your district time and money. Join the conversation!
“It’s about spending more time teaching – not doing tasks that are required by law or for accounting purposes.”
– Dan Hoerl
Follow-Up Resource: Positive Attendance
Learn more about how you can automate your classrooms with Positive Attendance.
Avoiding the Tardy Line