Smart Cards 101: Improving Attendance & Security

Two of the most fundamental issues facing school officials today are chronic absenteeism and school safety. The two issues are interrelated and shape public perception, school climate, and learning outcomes.

School districts need inexpensive solutions that address both needs and satisfy stakeholders, including parents, taxpayers and elected officials. Of course, often times, school leaders face the complexity of providing effective safety and attendance solutions with limited or declining budgets and other pressing demands for resources.

These challenges can indeed be difficult to overcome. However, smart card technology provides a viable solution while not placing a financial burden on schools.

Attendance and Safety – The Interconnected Challenges

School attendance and safety are intertwined, with chronic absenteeism often cited as being caused by students feeling unsafe in and around a school.

The U.S. Department of Education released a report, Chronic Absenteeism in the Nation’s Schools, that details some of the challenges school systems face today. According to the study:

  • Over 7 million U.S. students – 16 percent of the student population or nearly 1 in 6 pupils – missed 15 or more days of school.
  • Black (20.5 percent), American Indian (26 percent) and Hispanic (17 percent) students all have higher rates of chronic absenteeism than the overall rate (16 percent).
  • Chronic absenteeism is 15 percent less likely among English-speaking students than non-English-speaking students.
  • One in five high school students are chronically absent in high school.

Johns Hopkins University researchers published a study in 2018, Data Matters: Using Chronic Absence to Accelerate Action for Student Success. The research points out several correlations between school safety and attendance.

For example, among the factors influencing chronic absence are:

  • An unsafe path to or from school
  • Bullying
  • An unwelcome school climate

School surveys can help provide perceptions about their school climate. Usually, these surveys are sent to students but often include teachers and parents. That data can help inform solutions toward climate and safety.

Passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the successor legislation to the No Child Left Behind Act, sets forth clear mandates that could incentivize schools to address chronic absenteeism. The act requires that school districts report publicly the number of chronically absent students, often defined as missing 10 percent or more of the school day.

However, the mandate alone will not be effective in curbing absenteeism rates. Addressing these related issues will take more insights from teachers, more community outreach and additional measures to demonstrate what’s being done to keep schools safe.

In 2018, the New York City public schools unveiled a plan designed to improve school climate and safety. A student survey had reported that in 2016-17, 82 percent had witnessed harassment, bullying or intimidation; 17 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed with feeling safe in hallways, bathrooms or locker rooms; and that 90 percent of arrests and summonses were to black or Latino students.

The New York City plan calls for increased clarity on the role of school safety officers, more social workers and guidance counselors, and more resources to help students who have experienced trauma.

Smart Cards 101 for Education

Many school districts are turning to the use of smart ID cards to address both chronic absenteeism and school safety.

Smart cards use radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. An embedded chip in each card can signal attendance without having to line up single-file to pass through scanners. Hundreds of students can be checked in in minutes.

Readers placed in main entrances, classrooms, and on buses are used to record attendance and provide real-time reporting on who is in school or not. This automated solution allows school officials to know precisely where students and staff are..

Among the other core benefits of using smart cards 101 are the following:

  • Efficiency. Schools that need to track attendance among hundreds or thousands of students can do so without long delays and limitations on instructional time.
  • Access control. Manage who is allowed in certain portions of the building at given times of day by authorizing smart cards to allow entry.
  • Cost savings. Instead of paying for costly options like metal detectors and devoting school and building staff resources to processing students, schools can focus on more critical tasks.
  • Personal accountability. Districts that begin using smart cards with younger students help build a sense of personal responsibility early.

“Just imagine one ID card for everything—and that is the key point. Smart cards can serve as the foundation for a wide range of applications, providing opportunities to streamline security and administrative tasks,” states a recent article. “Once an education district implements smart ID cards, the technology serves as the ideal foundation for ongoing benefits.”

The ScholarChip Solution

Smart ID cards are an essential component of the ScholarChip solutions. Our One Card is a multifunctional solution that addresses both absenteeism and safety. Students can use their One Card for classroom attendance, bus attendance, building entry, or large group entry (such as a prom, dance, performance or required school event). They can also be used when visiting other school areas, such as the nurse’s office, a counselor’s office, a school club meeting or the library.

What’s more, the ScholarChip One Card can be used with portable readers to take attendance on buses or at other off-site events such as field trips. Students can also use smart cards to pay for school lunches with our point-of-sale terminals. Staff can use their One Card to clock time or access doors. The visibility and ease of use of smart ID cards make them an ideal way to monitor who is where at all times. Access control means administrators can restrict access to doors and other areas, too.

ScholarChip is an all-in-one, platform solution to help reduce school threats and address the important issues surrounding school safety. Data from students, faculty, and stakeholders are leveraged to manage school access, attendance, and behavior management through the platform tools to increase safety and promote the campus climate schools are looking for.

If you would like to get a head start on improving attendance and security for your school, feel free to reach out today and schedule a 1-on-1 walkthrough with one of our specialists to discuss the benefits of smart cards 101!