The Hernando County School Board unanimously approved a $34,756.08 purchase last week for student tracking technologies that district officials believe will provide more reliable data for student behaviors like attendance and discipline.
The purchase was made with a 103(G) SIG grant for tracking technologies already implemented at Weeki Wachee High School and Central High School.
The tracking technology manufacturer PlascoTrac’s website license includes basic classroom-level tracking for data collection for student sign-in/out, and minor discipline incidents accessible from any computer, smartphone or tablet device with Internet capability.
While “tracking technologies” might connote scenarios where students are being monitored with a tracking device, advocates liken it more to a debit card where the currency deposited into students’ accounts is the reward of positive behaviors and it promotes a culture of “students helping students.”
“What exactly does the student tracking system do?” Board Chairman Matt Foreman asked.
Weeki Wachee Principal Troy LaBarbara said his school has had the technology since October, and with good success.
LaBarbara is a strong advocate of the tracking technology, saying it rewards positive behavior and curbs negative behaviors such as tardiness that interfere with student performance and district goals.
“It makes it quick and easy for rewarding positive behaviors, and what kids do is collect their points and can cash them in for all sorts of things,” LaBarbara said. “One point may be one cent for a media center fee they have, or birthday pass — if a kid is having a birthday, they can reserve a picnic table and we can get a pizza for them — or athletic ticket pass for a football game at 150 points.”
LaBarbara said the technologies also assist with teaching evaluation programs, enforcing attendance and more simply and readily pinpointing areas for improvement. Since the technology became operational in October, LaBarbara said, Weeki Wachee High School’s tardiness decreased almost immediately.
“When we started, October had a high rate of tardiness at 74, then it went down to 54 in November, so from one month to the next, tardiness has gone way down,” LaBarbara said. “If kids aren’t in class they aren’t doing the things they supposed to be doing, and they’re not getting the skills they need, and that affects school grade.
“It’s one more tool to help schools and teachers to achieve the goals.”
Another example LaBarbara gave involved school events such as prom night, where students scan their ID when they enter and scan again when they leave.
“We know they were at prom at this time, and God forbid if something happened to that kid after prom we can tell their parents that your kid was at prom at this time,” LaBarbara said.
LaBarbara also said the tracking technology has allowed his school to determine where discipline issues are occurring and at what grade level, with daily, instantaneous reports.
“In October we had 6.10 average disciplines per day per month for that month, and now we’re down to 3.24 disciplines per day during this month,” LaBarbara said. “It takes it by days. It’s a good, accurate reading.
“We’ve more than split it in half from what we were.”
LaBarbara said Chris Clifford, who teaches multimedia and technology at Weeki Wachee High, has been instrumental in incorporating the student tracking system.
“He’s done a great job with it at my school,” LaBarbara said. “Especially in Hernando County we try to find a way to move forward, and we have a lot of people in our district office that are very creative and do a lot with a little bit of money, and I mean that with my heart.”
A marketing specialist with PlascoTrac said the company is currently in the approval process for additional services with the school district.