Raising The Grade: Tracking students

Thursday, August 19th 2004, 9:38 am
By: News On 6

Oklahoma's students are disappearing. The Oklahoma Department of Education says it's found a way to solve the problem.

News on 6 reporter Kia Malone explains what state officials are planning in this Raising the Grade report. When a student doesn't show up for the first day of school, Oklahoma school districts, many times don't know why.

Dr. George Kimball, director of planning for Oklahoma City Schools: “If you were enrolled in our schools last year and we were expecting you back this year but you didn't show up for school. Then initially we have to categorize that student as a drop out. We don't know where you are.“

In the most recent data, the state's two largest districts, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, reported half of their high school students were unaccounted for. The two districts don't know if they dropped out, transferred or were incarcerated. They simply, disappeared.

Student information manager Barbara Roewe: “just like ghost employee, the taxpayers don't want to pay ghost students either. So we do want to make sure every student is accounted for.”

The Oklahoma Department of Education, in conjunction with a partnership of business and education leaders, named OBEC researched various tracking systems used in other states. Third Day Solutions in Jackson, Mississippi will provide the software program to track the students.

Every student will be assigned a tracking number that follows him or her from kindergarten through 12th grade, even when they change districts. “Which will be put in place so that the districts and the sites can track things such as student mobility, drop-out, graduation rates. All of those key components that are almost an impossibility right now for the schools to track.” But this program won't be available statewide until at least the 2006-2007 school year. So, until then student may continue to disappear. The News on 6 has learned pilot programs will be initiated in some districts next spring.

All districts must have the software installed in their computer systems by 2005-2006. The tracking system will cost nearly $2-million the first two years, as the department tries to get all districts online. Over the following five years, it will cost $5-million.