By Greg Bartlett
Truancy is a serious problem in many school districts. Traditionally it has been a difficult problem to deal with since neither the parents nor the teachers monitor students at all times. In some states, however, that situation may be about to change. A recent pilot program in Texas experimented with equipping students who have truancy records with a GPS tracking device to help keep them in school. So far, the program has been a success.
The GPS tracking device carried by students in the pilot program allows them to be monitored at all times during the school day. The transmitter sends signals at intervals to a computer and the information can be viewed in real time or as a report at the end of the day. So far, the schools using the devices have been pleased with their performance and plan to expand the pilot programs to be implemented as part of the regular truancy procedures.
As other states begin to follow Texas in making GPS tracking part of their standard operating procedure for truant students, school leadership will appreciate the diverse options available when purchasing a GPS tracking device. Models and capabilities vary widely, and as the technology develops, GPS units will become smaller and smarter. Current models allow operators to set up zone perimeters, which, when crossed, will send an alert to the receiving software or to a cell phone. If a student tries to leave the property during the school day, school officials will know immediately.
Knowledge that their whereabouts can be determined at any point seems to give students with a tendency toward truancy a reason to stay in school. A truancy judge determines which students need to wear the devices and for how long. Parents of students in the pilot programs have backed the program as well, recognizing the need for their kids to stay in school in order to get the best start in life. With nearly one-third of high school students nationwide dropping out of school before graduation, the use of a GPS tracking device for truants could represent a significant shift in the ability of school officials to encourage attendance.
The data for high school dropouts is sobering: high school graduates earn approximately $10,000 less than their counterparts each year once they enter the workforce, adding up to nearly $319 billion in wages lost over the course of their careers. If equipping students with a GPS tracking device can alter those numbers even a small amount, the investment will be well worth it.