The days of the morning attendance roll call are in decline as schools are now adopting RFID technology to track everything from student attendance to valuable assets.
Students will carry ID cards or tags with a unique identifier that is transmitted to readers in the school. No more swiping cards; the reader instantly relays the student’s whereabouts to a computer network, automating the daily attendance task. Administrators can instantly get a list of absentees and get the information out to teachers and parents in a timely manner – efficiently and accurately.
RFID has numerous applications in the education market. Aside from tracking student attendance, tags put onto expensive assets, like laptops and projectors, keep the assets secure and make locating them easy. Teachers, administrators, and other staff can also be tagged to automated clocking for time and attendance purposes.
To improve the safety in classrooms and on campus, a panic button can also be added to IDs in case of emergency. Temporary passes can be issued to keep track of visitors and send automatic alerts should someone be someplace they shouldn’t or if they overstay a scheduled departure time.
The technology is efficient, cost-efficient, and advanced. But should RFID be used for tracking people? As a number of schools are adopting this technology for student IDs, privacy issues arise. School districts are interested in RFID tags primarily for monetary reasons; they can offset cuts in state funding since attendance has a role in determining the revenue the school receives.
For example, Northside Independent School District in San Antonio Texas got approval for a trial use of RFID tags in two of its schools. That’s about 6,290 students carrying an RFID tag at all times. With exact attendance records obtained with RFID tags, the school district could receive $1.7 million next year from higher attendance and Medicaid reimbursements for busing special education students. If the trial is successful, RFID tags could be used in the entire San Antonio school district.
The cost of the RFID program is $525,065 to deploy the trial next year, then another $136,005 annually to run it. Each RFID tag is $15, which students will have to pay if they lose it.
As far as privacy concerns, the school district claims that tags will only work when the kids are on school property; they won’t be tracked elsewhere, and only authorized administrators will have access to student data.
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