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Skipping School? Anaheim Truants Tracked via GPS

gps tracking studentsA school district in Anaheim, California is experimenting with a new system for getting chronically truant students to school, and on time. Seventh and eighth graders in the district with four or more unexcused absences are issued a small GPS device. Every morning, an automated system calls the students to remind them to get to school. Students are then required to use the tracking device to check in five times throughout their day, including at 8 p.m., well after school is through. The participants are also assigned a coach who calls three times a week to check in on the students. Participation in the trial is voluntary on the part of the students and the parents who want to avoid having to repeat a grade or, worse, face time in juvenile hall and a $2,000 fine for truancy.

The devices cost between $300 and $400 each, and roughly $8 per day to operate (a total of about $18,000 per student). Some critics might see this as a waste of money that could be better spent hiring additional teachers or avoiding layoffs. The local board defends the program saying it loses $35 per day for every absent student, so the GPS program essentially pays for itself. And the technology has proven quiet effective. Similar programs in San Antonio and Baltimore saw attendance rates among chronically truant students jump from 77-percent to 95-percent on average. (Still, there is a slight drop once the tracking stops.) To avoid lost devices, parents are financially responsible for the tracker in their possession. At the end of the six-week trial with 75 students, the district will decide whether to expand the program to additional schools.

Tags: anaheim california, AnaheimCalifornia, education, gps, guardtrax, privacy, school, top