During the 2011-12 school year, tardiness at Edgewood High School dropped significantly, something Harford County Public Schools officials credit to the swipe card system.
Though at times controversial, the swipe card system implemented at Bel Air and Edgewood high schools implemented at the start of the 2010-11 school year has been successful, with the majority of teachers satisfied with the program and referrals for student tardiness decreasing by a large amount, school officials say.
The system, which is only at Bel Air and Edgewood high schools for the time being, requires all students and teachers to have an ID card to swipe through electronic readers upon entering the school. This information is recorded by the readers and sent to the student's teachers for the purpose of keeping attendance.
According to Teri Kranefeld, manager of communications for the public school system, 37.54 percent of all referrals at EHS between 2008 and 2009 were for tardiness. During the last school year, 15.61 percent of all referrals were for tardiness.
In addition, the school's referrals for tardiness dropped from 175 in the first quarter to 20 in the fourth quarter.
"Both schools have found the Swipe program to be effective in reducing class cutting and increasing attendance," Kranefeld wrote in an e-mail.
A teacher survey on the use of the program shows 78 percent of EHS staff is satisfied with the swipe card program, and 89 percent of staff agrees that without the program it would be more difficult to monitor student attendance.
"As an assistant principal, SWIPE not only allows us to track lateness to class and class cutting, but it also plays a vital role in the safety and security of our students," EHS Assistant Principal Brad Spence was quoted as saying in an e-mail from Kranefeld. "We are able to know and inform parents in real time of where there child is and if they are in attendance."
Spence added that the school tracks "every lateness and cut not waiting on referrals to have this data."
Erica Harris, assistant principal at BAHS, agrees the swipe card program has been successful.
"Over the course of the last three years, parents and teachers at Bel Air High School have been able to receive immediate feedback from the SWIPE system on absences, cuts and tardies," she is quoted in an e-mail from Kranefeld. "This has opened the lines of communication between parents, teachers and administrators and raised the accountability for students. This year, Bel Air High School has refocused students on the importance of being prompt, and SWIPE is being used as the foundation of that initiative. Our goal is to reduce tardiness to school and class and increase time on task in classrooms."
No statistics on the program were available for BAHS because, the school system notes, the school had to work through "logistical and technical issues" during its first year of use. BAHS is now collecting data for the current school year and will use that as baseline data.
"As with any new technology, Swipe experienced minor glitches that needed to be addressed," the HCPS communications department said. "A virus affected the operating system at Bel Air last year, so they were not able to base trend data solely on the swipe system."
In October 2011, and after one year of use, the Safety and Security Citizen Advisory Committee told the Harford County Board of Education the swipe card system has been "highly successful" and gave school secretaries, who recorded attendance throughout the day, time to "execute other duties, such as monitoring detention, tardiness and absence excuses."
At this time, HCPS isn't planning to expand the program because expansion, Kranefeld noted, would require additional funding.