If you are looking for information on how to take attendance in our system, please refer to this article.
We often get asked questions like "can I see the number of days that a student is marked absent?", or "why is this student's attendance average so low if they show up nearly every day?" The answer to this question has to do with the way we collect and store attendance records.
Benefits of Period-by-Period Attendance
At heart, JumpRope is a period-by-period attendance system. In nearly any school, even elementary schools, students and/or teachers move around and exchange hands throughout the day. Collecting attendance data at multiple points can be extremely valuable for a few reasons, especially in high school.
- It accurately accounts for student tardiness. Many systems mark a student "present" even if they show up at 11am for an 8am school day. Many others mark them as tardy on such a day. Provided that teachers take regular attendance, JumpRope knows which periods they showed up (and, therefore, can basically pinpoint what time in the day they arrived). It's averages and reports then allow you to see useful information such as attendance averages in first period only (VERY useful in my classroom!).
- It helps teachers and deans identify when students "cut" class or leave early. By displaying attendance data that accumulates in real time throughout the day, it's easy to pick out students who have chosen to remove themselves from class or school, and to respond appropriately.
- It helps identify teacher mistakes in attendance. Like it or not, we (teachers) sometimes make mistakes when taking attendance. Throughout the day, the typical high school teacher sees 100+ students. A 99% accuracy rate (which is pretty darn good!) means we make at least one mistake per day. If attendance is taken once per day, and the error rate remains steady at 1%, we are less likely to make a mistake on any given day but it is nearly impossible to correct the mistakes. When there are multiple attendance records taken per student per day, the majority opinion is nearly always correct AND teachers in the afternoon can notice and notify teachers of mistaken attendance entries.
- At the end of the day, it provides the information we care about. My argument: we are programmed to think of attendance by day... just like we are programmed to think of grades as 0-100 (or A B C D F). This system does not serve our students well. Consider this: if we think of attendance daily, students GAME THE SYSTEM! I'm not proud of this fact, but they know showing up most days - even if it is at 11am - earns them a P (or at least a T) for the day. They know it keeps them registered as an active student. They know it avoids educational neglect laws. Perhaps even worse, schools know that they are evaluated by attendance averages, and have every incentive to mark students present if they show up very late. This system isn't good for kids. A better system is one that is not governed by external accountability systems, within which teachers and administrators are free to reflect reality as accurately as possible in the interest of serving the student. The data provided by a period-by-period attendance system reflects the amount of a time a student spends in class learning. Though schools may have their own needs in this area, I encourage our users to mark attendance literally in JumpRope. In other words, if a student is in the building but not in class (suspended, perhaps), mark that student absent because they were not in your class. Don't feel compelled to mark them present for accountability purposes. In this way, JumpRope becomes the system that can be trusted to reflect what matters: the amount of time students spend learning.
Downsides of Period-by-Period Attendance
We believe that the benefits of such a system far outweigh the downsides, but there are a couple of things worth mentioning. As a user of our system, it is important that you consider both the pros and the cons of abundant, transparent data.
- More data means more opportunity for mistakes. Simply by increasing the amount of data collected, the number of mistakes will likely increase. Despite the benefits expressed in point (3) above, we have noticed that the average school sees a teacher error rate of around 1-3%.
- Certain metrics become "fuzzier," and harder to communicate outside of the school. Most external audiences, including parents and school districts, typically consider attendance percentages to be "the percentage of days that a student was present." JumpRope's attendance numbers tell you "the percentage of time that a student attended classes." The problem is, there is an opportunity for misunderstanding in what is typically considered a simple, well-defined system. Furthermore, if the data is needed for legal purposes (truancy hearings, for example), the data can be harder to understand by parties that are used to traditional systems. An example of this may be a case in which a student has a period-by-period average of 50%. The student's family may be accused of educational neglect for allowing the child to miss so much school. In reality, though, the student may have shown up for fourth, fifth, and sixth periods every day. While this is still a major practical issue for the student's learning, it may not be the same definition of truancy or neglect that is provided in the law. For this reason, we recommend keeping a daily paper-trail of attendance (once-a-day bubble sheets or printouts of JumpRope's "official" attendance reports) for legal purposes.
- Attendance is (pretty much) always lower. School's are often judged - at least to some degree - on student attendance numbers. This external pressure can lead to "corrupted" data when teachers or administrators feel the need to present attendance numbers that are as high as possible. In traditional systems, a student who shows up at noon is usually marked present. In JumpRope, their morning absences will bring down the attendance numbers reported by the system. Unless not a single student is tardy for the day, the period-by-period attendance number will always be lower than the daily attendance number. Our argument is that this number is simply a more accurate representation of student attendance, especially from the teacher's perspective.
I hope that this explanation of our attendance system - and the philosophy behind it - helps you understand and use JumpRope more effectively.