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Education Privacy

Texas School District Drops Embattled RFID Student IDs; Opts For Cameras 244

Posted by samzenpus
from the eye-in-the-sky dept.
The Northside Independent School District (NISD) of Texas, has decided to drop their controversial student RFID card plans and settle on hundreds of cameras to monitor students. Apparently, the technology wasn't quite the attendance silver bullet administration thought it would be, as Slate's Will Oremus discovered. 'Northside Independent School District spokesman Pascual Gonzalez told me that the microchip-ID program turned out not to be worth the trouble. Its main goal was to increase attendance by allowing staff to locate students who were on campus but didn't show up for roll call. That was supposed to lead to increased revenue. But attendance at the two schools in question a middle school and a high school barely budged in the year that the policy was in place. And school staff found themselves wasting a lot of time trying to physically track down the missing students based on their RFID locators. "We're very confident we can still maintain a safe and secure school because of the 200 cameras that are installed at John Jay High School and the 100 that are installed at Jones Middle School. Plus we are upgrading those surveillance systems to high-definition and more sophisticated cameras. So there will be a surveillance-camera umbrella around both schools," Gonzalez said."'
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Texas School District Drops Embattled RFID Student IDs; Opts For Cameras

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  • by andrepd (2932623) on Monday July 22, 2013 @09:42AM (#44349905)
    Surveillance and regulations are innefective, education is the way to go. It fails with drugs, it fails with guns, and of course, it will fail to do anything to increase attendance in a middle school.
    • by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Monday July 22, 2013 @09:43AM (#44349931) Journal

      I'm tellin' ya, bring back spanking.

    • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Monday July 22, 2013 @10:14AM (#44350337) Journal

      I have a phrase I use when discussing these kinds of issues with our staff (I work at a school District)

      "You cannot fix sociological problems with technology. You can only mask them."

      Technology doesn't solve the problems people want them to solve. It only offers mitigation. As long as you understand, you're not solving things, you will do fine. If you think you will solve the deeper problems with technology, you're going to be rudely surprised by the ineffective nature of technology.

      And that is where the issue lies. Too many PHBs not understanding reality.

      • I understand where you're coming from, but I've always found that phrase to be problematic.

        Clearly technology can have a social impact, so why couldn't it be used to fix social problems? It must not be because it's powerless, but because we fail to understand its effects clearly enough to apply it effectively.

        (By the way, it's social problems. Sociological problems would be those problems related to the methodology of social research, not those related to the behaviors themselves.)

    • Education, no. Indoctrination is what you want, like the kind they use in advertising and politics. Those things are proven to be very effective.

  • Well, duh! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by H3lldr0p (40304) on Monday July 22, 2013 @09:44AM (#44349943) Homepage

    You mean, what the entire tech community said was going to happen, happened? Kids found ways around their stupid requirements and made them look like fools while some contractor got away with tons of public money?

    It's like we need to establish the "If an average 5 year old can find holes in it" rule from the evil overlord list for public institutions.

    • Re:Well, duh! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nemyst (1383049) on Monday July 22, 2013 @10:35AM (#44350557) Homepage
      What we also could use is more accountability. Who greenlit this? Who convinced the administration that it was going to work? People would perhaps be less likely to go out and try fancy expensive crap that's unproven if their job was on the line for it, and I don't mean the little guys who're only following orders. The administrators who take the decision should be held accountable for the money lost over an ineffective system.

      Hell, in an ideal world, the contract with the provider would have performance clauses. That'd help with a *lot* of issues we're seeing right now with contractors. Overdue, overbudget? Performance clause means you get penalties for that. Fails to deliver what was agreed upon? Same thing. It'd make the contractors more cautious when promising stuff because what they'd say could be held against them later on. If they say a lot of crap but aren't willing to put their money where their mouth is about it, it should raise all sorts of warnings.
      • Hell, in an ideal world...make the contractors more cautious when promising stuff because what they'd say could be held against them later on.

        All I can say is that I have dealt with sales people who are very, very good about carefully wording what they will and won't do. If you think that won't just get more in-house lawyers writing memos about "better" double-speak, well I think you'd be the one rudely surprised.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 22, 2013 @09:46AM (#44349957)

    And so if one silver bullet doesn't work, let's try another!

    IMO, if students don't show up for roll call too often, you talk to them. Then you talk to their parents. Motivating them (children AND parents) is your job. Treating them like money cows, not so much. Likewise, you don't automate roll call*, as some schools have tried. It's about the children, so treat them like they're human. At least, that's my apparently unAmerican[tm] view of things.

    * The roll call administration is something different again. But the actual call is to be done by person, thank you.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851)

      Fortunately, it's Texas, which means that they aren't actually missing out on education by skipping classes.

      They might even be learning useful things, rather than the Texas brand of propaganda.

    • by rullywowr (1831632) on Monday July 22, 2013 @10:26AM (#44350475)

      And so if one silver bullet doesn't work, let's try another!

      How is drinking Coors Light one after another a solution to this problem?

      • by Rockoon (1252108)
        Well, Coors Light is Alcohol and Hops in a water solution. Is there any reason to believe that this solution isnt related to the problem?
    • by pongo000 (97357)

      IMO, if students don't show up for roll call too often, you talk to them. Then you talk to their parents. Motivating them (children AND parents) is your job

      You mistakenly assume every kid has a parent (or parents, if they're lucky) who actually care about the welfare of the child. I teach at a large high school that is 60% Hispanic, 50% or more on free lunch. I can tell you that most of these students don't have parents that you can just call and say "Little Hector wasn't at school today, can you please e

      • by sjames (1099)

        So they don't care about their child because they spend 12 to 16 hours a day trying to provide them food, clothing, and shelter?

        Perhaps it is the society that would create conditions where parents have to work that much that doesn't care about the children.

  • Sounds like someone's due for a promotion.

  • Texas teachers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by P-niiice (1703362) on Monday July 22, 2013 @09:48AM (#44349977)
    The lens through which we could be seeing this issue is facinating. We on slashdot see "Texas" teachers and we probably think they're retard conservatives. While, generally teachers in conservative southern states are viewed as crazy-ass liberals. It must be hell teaching in Texas, regardless of a teacher's ploitical leanings.
    • Re:Texas teachers (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SJHillman (1966756) on Monday July 22, 2013 @09:55AM (#44350093)

      It's hell teaching in most states because lawmakers, parents and administrators are competing to see who can prevent kids from learning the most.

      • Re:Texas teachers (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Entropius (188861) on Monday July 22, 2013 @10:46AM (#44350707)

        You forgot teachers' unions, who are also doing a fine job of it.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Entropius (188861)

          Grandparent mentions three things hurting education and gets +5; I mention a fourth and get modded down. Interesting.

          (I say this based on my mother's experience as a career teacher, fyi -- I'm no conservative blowhard.)

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "There is no spoon." The schools are not there to teach your children anything. They're there to socialize your children to prepare them for boring, menial, repetitive work. They're there to force your children to conform as much as possible. Last, but certainly not least, they're there to keep children out of the job market because they will accept a lower wage than their parents who need those low skill jobs. Read up on the history of mandatory public school https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsory_p

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      You have to scrutinize every word in a statement to comprehend it in any case. "Texas" and "Teachers" for example. In this case, "Texas" means "San Antonio" (and part of surroundings) and "Teachers" will cover a lot of ground, too. Some of those people are teaching 'Murican History, and some of those people are teaching Physical Science, and some of those people are teaching Art. You can safely assume that these people will all be fairly different from one another. And yet, you can also safely assume that t

      • by Richy_T (111409)

        My recollection is that most teachers are interchangeable until you get to a certain level. As long as you can read the answers from the back of the book, you're golden. The exception is the sports teachers for whom the qualification is the desire to vicariously live out your failed dreams through your more talented students while finding some way to keep the rest out of your hair.

    • by crakbone (860662)
      While I do agree the majority of teachers I have met have more Liberal leanings I have personally found they truly want to help the children and the ones that mess up the works are the school administration/school board. Out of all the insane and crazy ideas I have seen at schools the amount presented by teachers had been extremely low. You really want to mess up a childs life try to run it based solely on politics.
    • Re:Texas teachers (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Entropius (188861) on Monday July 22, 2013 @10:46AM (#44350699)

      Texas education will surprise you, apparently. I know a choral conductor who recent took a job at a small Texas college. I asked her how many students were there, and she said "Oh, about 600". It's not a dedicated music college, so I expressed my surprise, and asked her if she could form a decent choir out of a student body of 600.

      She said "Ah, but they're 600 Texans." Apparently music education is emphasized quite a lot in Texas K-12 schools, and far more students leave school knowing how to sing than in other states.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Texas teachers aren't the source of most of the crazy-ass stories about Texas' educational system. It's the State Board of Education which contains the lunatics who keep trying to push creationism in textbooks and all the other stupid shit that everyone makes fun of.

  • Wrong reasons ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Monday July 22, 2013 @09:51AM (#44350021) Homepage

    That was supposed to lead to increased revenue.

    If the schools are focused on increasing revenue, something along the way is horribly broken.

    • by cruff (171569)

      If the schools are focused on increasing revenue, something along the way is horribly broken.

      When I was in elementary school, we were told ahead of time to make sure we were present for certain days because the attendance on those days was used as a base line for certain funding sources. This is not a new thing.

    • by OzPeter (195038)

      That was supposed to lead to increased revenue.

      If the schools are focused on increasing revenue, something along the way is horribly broken.

      If I remember correctly, State(?) funding is based on attendance, so it behooves the school to keep track of their little gravy-trains in order to ensure they get the maximum possible funding.

      If you didn't fund schools based on attendance, then how else would you do it? (and this is a serious question)

      • Doesn't 'No Child Left Behind' fund by test scores?

        Of course, that means underperforming school districts get less money, which leads to further under performance.

        • by ai4px (1244212)
          ....and the other way 'round would be to give extra money to schools which don't perform? Talk about a race to the bottom. If you "reward" underperforming schools with more money, you'll soon have all of them in that category.
          • I didn't suggest the opposite.

            How about everyone gets a flat $, with bonuses for better test scores. Or better graduation rates.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              How about everyone gets a flat $, with bonuses for better test scores.

              Why should they be rewarded for handing out tests which are fundamentally flawed?

              • Yeah. That's all they do. If you're going to be critical, at least say something like 'all they do is teach to the tests'.

                And your solution?

                • If you're going to be critical, at least say something like 'all they do is teach to the tests'.

                  That's indeed what seems to be happening.

                  And your solution?

                  To begin with, stop focusing so much on poorly-designed tests; preferably, just get rid of them.

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        > If I remember correctly, State(?) funding is based on attendance, so it behooves the school to keep track of their little gravy-trains in order to ensure they get the maximum possible funding.

        Take roll in class. Use 100 year old technology to do it.

        Non-problem solved.

        No Big Brother survelliance state required.

      • If you didn't fund schools based on attendance, then how else would you do it? (and this is a serious question)

        I would use a combination of metrics to determine where the funding is needed most, rather than basing a schools fiscal security on a single factor, which in the case of attendance becomes a vicious cycle: funding goes down, so the quality of education goes down, so attendance goes down, so funding goes down, and so on and so forth.

      • Re:Wrong reasons ... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Stolpskott (2422670) on Monday July 22, 2013 @10:26AM (#44350469)

        If you didn't fund schools based on attendance, then how else would you do it? (and this is a serious question)

        Granted the system in the UK is so far pro perfect, that a person with good eyesight and excellent binoculars standing on top of the system in the UK could not even see "Perfect" over the horizon... but the funding system there is at least in part based on the academic results of the students.
        Why is this not perfect?
        1. The schools no longer teach the subject, they teach the way to pass the exam.
        2. Schools offer more easy courses (and as a result, fewer math/science/technology options).
        3. Students want an easier life, so they pick the easier courses.
        4. Governments like to be able to say that their education approach is improving things, and they point to consistently higher grades, which are achieved through the subjects being dumbed-down, sometimes to the point where students going on to the next phase of education have not achieved a basic core competence level in fundamental subject that are the building blocks of education at the next phase.

        Granted, as I left University in the mid-90's, this is no longer my problem so I can be the doddering old fart with a shotgun in one hand and my Zimmer frame in the other, shouting "Gerroffmylawn!!!", but the problem really came home to me when I came to try and help my daughter with her math homework, which was "how do you perform multiplication on a calculator?", and "Using your calculator, perform the following calculations...".

    • Re:Wrong reasons ... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by pr0t0 (216378) on Monday July 22, 2013 @10:08AM (#44350271)

      I surprised that there is such a disparity between enrollment and attendance that they can't just use the former to determine funding. Are parents enrolling their children but not sending them to school? Are children so disenfranchised and utterly unconcerned about their future that they habitually skip class? What they heck is going on in Texas?

      Maybe it was just how I was raised or the ethos of my school environment, but when I was young we all knew: more class time => better college => better income. Even in middle school we knew that! Sure we were still kids. Kids who disliked homework and usually felt bored in class, but damn, we wouldn't skip it more than once or twice a year.

      • by Necroman (61604)

        It seems like at least a few states us a thing called the "Average Daily Attendance [edsource.org]" to track how many kids are actually going to school. Then this is the number that is actually used when allocating funding to the school. Here's a story [kpbs.org] about how much 1 student being chronically absent costs the school (87 days missed, school lost $2464).

        This isn't all the funding a school gets, but it is part of it.

      • by Firethorn (177587)

        Are children so disenfranchised and utterly unconcerned about their future that they habitually skip class?

        In many cases, yes. They're too 'busy' running with a street gang selling drugs, or perhaps working 'under the table'. Sometimes they just want to hang out somewhere to do drugs.

        What they heck is going on in Texas?

        Texas is far from the only one to suffer from this problem. Heck, it's unlikely to be a problem at even 'most' Texas schools. It tends to be at it's worst in inner-city schools around ghettos, where education isn't seen as important.

    • You hit the nail on the head.
      Watch the talking heads blather on about safety, it is only about funding.
      The us public school system is not about education, it is money and politics, but that is redundant.

    • Oh? You think our schools shouldn't be worrying about money? That they should just hang their hopes on benevolent politicians to see that they have enough to do their jobs? I'm feeling generous, so let's call that "Idealistic".

      Harsh reality alert: History would suggest that your unbridled optimism has no basis in fact. When schools pinching pennies STILL can't afford pencils for the kids half way through the year, your idealized society seems...well, hopelessly unrealistic.

  • Why not have cameras? I'd like to have audio recordings too. I see some real benefits besides the attendance issue. Kids should not get the same rights as adults and keeping a closer eye on teachers as well. I imagine it may increase everyone's productivity and civility.
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      Why not have cameras? I'd like to have audio recordings too. I see some real benefits besides the attendance issue. Kids should not get the same rights as adults and keeping a closer eye on teachers as well. I imagine it may increase everyone's productivity and civility.

      well the cameras you would have thought to have come before the rfid. but what baffles me is that they though they were going to be using the rfid for involuntary locationing of people. that's beyond stupid - what's even more stupid is that it seems their "revenue" wasn't based on people learning or being taught in class but the number of people they can prove to have been in class? is it a prison or a school?

  • by RichMan (8097) on Monday July 22, 2013 @09:56AM (#44350107)

    If the school system was doing a proper job and education was engaging and felt worthwhile then attendance would not be a problem.

    I would say they are spending the money in the wrong place. Working on the curriculum and staff training would be better, but the system cannot blame itself for the failing so blames the students.

    *sigh* if only the education system could actually be intelligent and learn from the past.

    • If the school system was doing a proper job and education was engaging and felt worthwhile then attendance would not be a problem.

      If there are enough 8-year olds in this country who could possibly find education more engaging than being outside on a Spring day (or being inside playing their favorite computer game), then your theory might work....

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Monday July 22, 2013 @10:05AM (#44350235)

    You see this with a lot of schools. They become massive unmanageable compounds.

    If the school is so big that you can't find your students in a reasonable amount of time even though they're on campus then your school is just too damn big.

    Beyond that, there is a huge issue in our education system with putting the burden of attendance on the school or the teachers. How exactly is it the teacher's responsibility to make sure the students are in the class room? That is either the responsibility of the student or the parent. And if the student fails to show up or the parent fails to deliver the student... Fine. Find another school because you're expelled.

    "But But, that will leave exceptionally stupid and disruptive children without even a marginal education."... And? So we should screw up the whole education system and force teachers to go play hide and go seek with various students just to raise an F- student up to a D- student? Not worth it.

    Any meaningful test can be failed. If you cannot fail a test then it isn't a test. Life is full of tests. Will you get a job? Will you form some sort of life long relationship with someone else? Will you support yourself? Will you take care of your health? etc. The same is true in your professional career and the same is true in your education. Tests. Which you pass and fail. And not showing up to class is a failing grade.

    End of story. Does that mean the school loses money due to poor attendance? Sure. But that's an accounting issue. Calculate things AFTER attendance not before. Then you don't lose anything. Or at least set your attendance projections at something more realistic. Scale back your projections by whatever percentage you over shot last year and you'll probably be closer to the ACTUAL attendance this year. What is the big problem.

    You are not going to be able to save every kid. Stupidity is incurable. Get over it.

  • The American Way (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Monday July 22, 2013 @10:07AM (#44350253)

    Treat students like prisoners.

  • Unless they implant the RFID chips, one kid will turn up for class with 30 RFID chips in his pocket!
  • The real problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by slashmydots (2189826) on Monday July 22, 2013 @10:09AM (#44350285)
    How has nobody mentioned this yet? Kids will show up for school if the stupid teachers unions wouldn't throw a giant fit every time a school tries to fire a teacher that every student hates because they're a complete asshole. Schools shouldn't even have good and bad teachers. Bad teachers should just be fired. I love how my high school had a "principal reviews the teachers in-class" semi-annually policy. Talk about a stupid waste of time. They know the principal is sitting there watching so they act different and the principal is only looking for teaching quality, not their personality. If they want a real opinion of teachers, ask the students and then fire accordingly.
    • by arth1 (260657) on Monday July 22, 2013 @10:29AM (#44350495) Homepage Journal

      This is horrible advice.
      Kids are likely to like teachers who are friendly and let them get away with anything. Those who nag until they do their assignments or tell them to pay attention are not liked. But they may be way better pedagogues.
      Thinking back to my youth, the teacher who was most universally hated was also the one whose teachings I remember the best today.

    • Well, with the 200 cameras installed on campus, the principal won't need to sit in the class any more. He can just tune in whenever he likes.
    • by Murdoch5 (1563847)
      You're exactly right! Out of the last 20 years I've been in school and the dozen's of teachers I've had, I would maybe keep 5 of them on staff. Teachers have developed a union where they can effectively sit on there asses, do nothing, make a stink and get paid increasingly large amounts of money. If kids are skipping class most of blame should be put on the school and teacher, the teacher needs to make the class inviting and fun and the school needs to offer fun and exciting courses that make kids excit
    • Re:The real problem (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dkleinsc (563838) on Monday July 22, 2013 @11:09AM (#44350979) Homepage

      My high school had a powerful teachers union, was serving one of the poorer districts in the state, and on the whole a very good teaching staff. Some things that made a difference:
      - Teachers had at least a 1-year probationary period in which they could be fired at the will of the administration. This meant that would-be teachers who proved themselves incompetent never made it into the system. That obviously didn't do anything about the established-but-now-doddering teachers, but it did mean that I was able to work with the administration to get rid of a chemistry teacher who couldn't do basic algebra.

      - The teacher's union was smart about who it protected and who it didn't. Teachers who deserved to be fired due to gross incompetence or malice or stupid insubordination were not protected by the union. That meant that when the union went to bat for teachers that were getting laid off due to ageism or abusive administrators or politics (e.g. one administrator tried to get a teacher fired for talking about anti-Vietnam activism in a US history class), the city and the public were likely to back them up.

      - The district I was in paid better than surrounding districts. That helped attract the best teachers, who (ceteris paribus) prefer getting paid better. In fact, we even had a couple of doctorates teaching high school in part because they could earn more than they would have at nearby colleges.

      - Good people attract good people: Good teachers were attracted to that particular school because they knew they would be able to learn from their top-notch colleagues.

      - As far as I could tell there was no drug testing. Some of the better teachers were widely known to be potheads, but they were never challenged on that basis.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Monday July 22, 2013 @10:11AM (#44350301) Homepage
    The problem to school attendance is a societal issue. texas' abstinence only education perpetuates a cycle in which unfit or unwilling parents are needlessly encumbered by raising a child. working two jobs and barely making rent, the prosects are low when faced with ensuring your child doesnt starve to death and attends school on a regular basis.
    through policical will, we've slashed education funding to the lowest levels in 30 years. We shouldnt get the luxury of complaining about low school attendance figures when evidence suggests there are arent enough teachers let alone truancy officers to ensure attendance.
    the increasing police presence in most schools also reinforces a schoolhouse to jailhouse track for kids that need help the most. one or two run-ins with the cops and most kids just quit going entirely assuming the system is rigged against them.
    Dont get me wrong, RFID is a glorious technology. We should use it instead to track politicians in the pursuit of determining where they get off neutering a public service that is intrinsic in becoming a functional human being, let alone model citizen. Maybe a few well placed tags can determine at what point our duly elected officials secure kickbacks for more cops in schools. Line their pockets with some and lets try to figure out what tribal leader is pushing them model legislation for doling cash to religious institutions disguised as legitimate schools
  • by GPS Pilot (3683) on Monday July 22, 2013 @10:41AM (#44350637)

    "we can still maintain a safe and secure school because of the 200 cameras that are installed"

    I guess my school was a deathtrap, because it had zero cameras and zero RFID chips.

  • Just leave the kids alone, the kids who want to go to class will go to class and the kids who want to skip will skip almost no matter what. Tracking kids won't inspire them to go to class, what would inspire kids is interactive lessons, engaging teachers, interesting classes and an inviting atmosphere, not tracking them like it's going out of style.
  • Most of the stories I hear about schools is another prison like policy being implemented. Why not just drop the pretense and combine prisons and schools and be done with it.
  • by PPH (736903)

    I want the concession for the Guy Fawkes masks in Texas.

  • If attendance is down, the reason is that students perceive classes as low-quality and not worth their time. Improve teaching and the problem goes away. Trying a prison-style surveillance system instead is not only morally reprehensible, it does address the wrong problem. No surprise there, school administrators belong to the most stupid and most disconnected-from-reality people that are still smart enough to achieve literacy.

  • "We're very confident we can still maintain a safe and secure school because of the 200 cameras"

    And this will deter the next shooter from shooting up a school - like how ?
  • If the schools think using cameras to automatically identify students is going to be cheaper or work better... I doubt it. Students in hoodies, hats, or sunglasses are going to play hell with face recognition software, not to mention partial occlusions, bad angles, shadows, and poor illumination. That means many (most?) kids will go unrecognized or misrecognized, and miscounted.

    Add to that the inevitable bright idea that they also look for unfamiliar faces and then sound an alert when a stranger is seen lu

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