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Education Privacy

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

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 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 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 arth1 ( 260657 ) on Monday July 22, 2013 @10:12AM (#44350325) Homepage Journal

    I'd say that tying money to attendance is the problem.
    That makes attendance a priority for the schools, which is wrong in itself. In a system without spare resources, prioritizing one thing will always mean de-prioritizing something else.
    But also, the measuring of whatever criteria are used adds overhead, which already is way too high in schools.

    Split the budget in two. One goes to every school based on the building mass and facilities they have. The other for education, and varies based on number of assigned students. If a large percentage of students don't attend, that leaves more money for those who does, which is good - that makes the school more attractive.

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

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Monday July 22, 2013 @10:15AM (#44350353) Homepage Journal

    Well, as one of the outliers, I remember vividly that some teachers were there to teach and some teachers were there to get paid and keep the little fuckers in line, which is not a healthy attitude.

  • 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...".

  • 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.

  • 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: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.

  • Re:Texas teachers (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Entropius ( 188861 ) on Monday July 22, 2013 @11:15AM (#44351043)

    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:Texas teachers (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 22, 2013 @11:25AM (#44351173)

    "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 Look at the timing of those first and second waves. They correspond directly to the end of the two World Wars. Men came back from war and couldn't get jobs because their kids were doing the job for pennies.. so we socialized the problem and made the kids go to "school." Once you realize the origins and purpose of public schools you will see that they are not the abject failure most would have you believe. They are in fact quite successful.

  • Re:Texas teachers (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 22, 2013 @01:01PM (#44352315)

    I can almost agree to not putting "creationism" in text-books vis-a-vis Government not promoting a religion, but if by that you mean "intelligent design", I have to disagree. Intelligent design is more scientifically deducible than macro-evolution. Throughout the world we see evidence of Biblical history being accurate (like a world-wide flood, recorded in ancient manuscripts from a variety of cultures) and we see evidence of information (e.g. DNA) instructing life on how to operate. Information always comes from an intelligent source. If you wanted to design a new software porgram, you would not put a dictionary in a safe and wait a million years. In a million years, whatever was left would look like a million-year old dictionary in a safe. It would not look like a new software program, even if you added lightning or radiation to the mix. By observation, we can deduce that there was a designer when we look at nature. Macro-evolution, on the other hand, has never been observed. Only micro-evolution has. Squirrels on one side of the grand canyon may have black bellies and white tails, while squirrels on the other side have white bellies and dark tails, but they are both still squirrels and neither have turned into chipmunks or cats or dolphins.

  • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Monday July 22, 2013 @01:27PM (#44352629)
    I'm worried about that too, but I calm down when I realize it might backfire. I was sent to Catholic schools from grade school to high school. I'm now convinced the best way to make sure a kid is agnostic or atheist when he grows up is forcing him to study religion in high school from your average high school teacher. Perhaps surveillance states in schools will be the best way to teach subsequent generations that it's a fucking annoying nightmare that should never be tolerated by people who consider themselves free.

    I mean, our generations grew up without it, and we're giving a big fat "meh, It's probably a good thing, they say it is" to 1984 coming true. Maybe it's because we never lived it.

When a fellow says, "It ain't the money but the principle of the thing," it's the money. -- Kim Hubbard