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High-tech student monitoring
Nunavut schools switching to electronic system to track attendance and progress

Myles Dolphin
Northern News Services
Published Monday, September 2, 2013

Generations of students can recall early-morning attendance being done by teachers who would call out the names of students individually before placing a check mark next to who was present.

NNSL photo/graphic

Nunavut public school attendance rates (%) in 2010-2011

  • Arctic Bay: 72.8
  • Cape Dorset: 71.4
  • Clyde River: 62.6
  • Grise Fiord: 75.4
  • Hall Beach: 54.8
  • Iglulik: 64.2
  • Iqaluit (3 districts): 76.3
  • Kimmirut: 75.2
  • Pangnirtung: 71.7
  • Pond Inlet: 67.7
  • Qikiqtarjuaq: 60.0
  • Resolute: 74.8
  • Sanikiluaq: 60.7
  • Arviat: 68.5
  • Baker Lake: 69.3
  • Chesterfield Inlet: 68.6
  • Coral Harbour: 74.1
  • Rankin Inlet: 82.5
  • Repulse Bay: 76.4
  • Whale Cove: 70.4
  • Cambridge Bay: 75.3
  • Gjoa Haven: 60.7
  • Kugaaruk: 68.7
  • Kugluktuk: 59.5
  • Taloyaok: 68.7
  • Source: GN Department of Education

    That ritual is over for Nunavut schools as they adopt a new electronic system.

    While attendance rates across the territory have historically been lower than those at southern schools, the Government of Nunavut's Department of Education is hoping an integrated student record management system can help track data more accurately, and perhaps help them find ways to ultimately increase rates.

    The new system, called Maplewood was piloted at nine schools last year and will be implemented in all 43 schools across the territory as they open this fall.

    Donald Mearns, the director of assessment for the Department of Education, said Maplewood will do much more than just track attendance.

    "This new system not only gives us the ability to fulfill our legal requirement (to record attendance in schools) but also to give us accurate data at a school, region and Nunavut-wide level," he stated in an e-mail.

    "This will also allow us to track attendance issues, truancy, lates and other absences. This data will allow us to report to the public accurately and consistently to make informed decisions on dealing with these situations."

    Because Baffin Island schools have struggled to keep attendance levels up, they have devised and implemented various strategies to increase rates.

    Abdus Salam, principal at Inuujaq School in Arctic Bay, said his staff have come up with many incentives for students to encourage them to come to school more often.

    "We have a monthly attendance assembly where we give out prizes," he said.

    "We also hand out certificates to the classes with the highest attendance. After a staff meeting we had in June, we've also decided to offer various prizes - bicycles, iPods and iPads for example - at the end of the year for the students with the highest attendance."

    Salam added the school is also focused on increased co-operation with parents to increase attendance.

    Cara Cormier, principal at Umimmak School in Grise Fiord, said attendance at her school is good, and the lower grades - kindergarten to Grade 6 - are typically full classrooms.

    Grise Fiord has one of the highest attendance rates in Nunavut at 75.4 per cent for the 2010-2011 school year, five per cent above the territorial average.

    On top of handing out prizes at monthly assemblies, Cormier said the K-12 school started using a new reward program last year.

    "We created a token system," she said.

    "When students come to school, they receive tokens that they can use to buy items such as T-shirts and juice boxes. It has been very successful so far."

    Many school administrators and educators have already received full-day and half-day training, respectively, on the system. Staff at Umimmak will receive training in mid-September, Cormier said.

    Additional support will be provided from a Pangnirtung office and training videos, presently being developed, will eventually be available online.

    The cost of the initial system was $220,000 for the software licence. There is also an annual hosting and maintenance fee of $72,000. Mearns said the total cost of training for the 2012-2013 school year was $129,450.

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