I have given a lot of attention to our web-based attendance script this year, partly because knowing who is here is a critical function of the school and partly because we will be moving to 100% online attendance next year when our campus becomes more spread out. Today, I finished adding some new features to essentially the second major release of this script.
The biggest new feature is a more powerful interface for monitoring inputs into Blackbaud. You may know from previous posts that I want to avoid buying additional Blackbaud modules, because their products are very expensive, high maintenance, and not customizable. My little attendance script queries Blackbaud to get class rosters then collects teacher attendance marks for import back into Blackbaud. The only catch is that sometimes our Reception staffers would overwrite an excused absence with a teacher mark, or a teacher mark would not import without notifying us. The new import tool skips records that already exist in Blackbaud and monitors for records that have not successfully been imported in previous imports.
For teachers, the new release has a couple of useful features. First, a teacher may now examine the semester attendance record for any of his/her students. Second, if a student has already been excused for the period, the teacher will see the reason show up while taking attendance. I have wanted this feature for a while. If the school knows that a student is absent, now the teacher will know just as soon!
Students can now check their own attendance records directly, which should serve two purposes. Most importantly, students will be able to monitor their own timeliness and make corrections before an adult contacts them, which is an essential part of our mission to have students take responsibility for their own learning. Second, students will find the errors that we adults make and hold teachers accountable to take attendance every period!
Finally, I am happy that this year has served as an extended pilot for this product, increasing the chances that it will work seamlessly when all of our teachers use it next year.