Wednesday, December 05, 2018

The Attendance System Is Dead. Long Live the Attendance System

For the last few months we've been grappling with an online attendance program called CAASS. It's been an interesting journey. Last year we started it, and found there were a lot of redundancies built in that wasted our time. CAASS told us not to worry. They were going to have a glitzy new fault-free program by October or thereabouts.

I can't recall when we started using it. I do recall the hours and days when it didn't work. Admin did not necessarily worry about that. You see, even if I had no record of a student being absent, or present, or whatever, the student could've been marked in other classes. Therefore our general attendance would not go down. That is important somehow, but I'm just a lowly teacher so don't ask me why.

The thing is, if you made a mistake yesterday you couldn't correct it today. It had gone in, it was etched in stone, and that was it. Also, there were no records. So when you call a parent to explain that the student had been frequently absent, you couldn't give the parent dates. More than one parent asked me to provide dates of absence at parent-teacher conferences and I was unable to do so. I felt like an idiot.

Also, I'm very dependent on my laptop when I'm working. I use it for just about everything. So if a kid walks in late and I need to record it, I have to take my computer off the display I'm showing to write it down. Alternatively, I could write it on a piece of paper somewhere and hope to find it again in time to record it.

Last week was pretty interesting. CAASS would work period one, but periods two and three would crap out entirely. Two nights last week I recorded absences while I was at my home. One day I was able to get back in period 5 and do it while I was on the clock. But it was so unreliable I had no idea whether what it showed was true. For example, I spoke to a dad who wanted to know if his kid was in class on a certain date. The kid swore he was. I pulled up CAASS and it said he wasn't. I had to tell dad this meant nothing because I had no idea whether or not the info was accurate.

A lot of teachers told me they were recording attendance on their own and then transferring it to CAASS. That sounded like double work to me, and single work is challenging enough for my taste. I was going to file a paperwork complaint, which looked like a slam dunk to me, at least. Admin seemed to agree, saying that they'd dump it if I complained.

Although almost everyone with whom I spoke hated the system, I wasn't certain everyone felt that way. I decided to put it up for a vote. I printed ballots and made a staff list so people could sign as they voted. At the end of the day, I got a call from the principal's office saying they were dumping it regardless.

Evidently I was not the only one receiving parental complaints. Some made their way from the teachers, to the assistant principal, to the principal. Evidently, some parents want to actually know for sure whether or not their kids are attending classes. I don't blame them.

I'm sure it's possible to take attendance online. I'm sure someone will think of a program that works. Here's the thing--whoever does that needs to thoroughly test it before making it public. Getting online with a buggy program and hoping for the best is just not the way to go about it.
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