Well after the nation’s return to in-person learning, students are continuing to face difficulties in readjusting to classroom life. In response to ongoing challenges, some schools are now considering the adoption of classroom behavior tracking tools to better understand and address students' adjustment issues. The extent of these tools vary from simply tracking absences and suspensions to more extensive – and controversial – monitoring of student activity on school-provided devices. These tools have sparked conversations about the importance of maintaining a respectful educational environment while ensuring students' wellbeing and respecting privacy.
Sandy Spring Friends School, a Quaker day and boarding school in Sandy Spring, Maryland, uses behavior tracking tools through Veracross. The tools enable staff and faculty to enter a record of a behavior or make a comment regarding a student, notify any necessary people and historically track any records added. Behavior events, such as a dress code violation or detention, are documented by incident type, date and note to explain when and why this event notice has been entered. This also allows parents to be notified of behavior and comments.
Net Assets sat down with Head of School Rodney Glasgow, Ed. D., and former business officer Laura Miyoshi to discuss how these tools are shaping the school’s technology decisions.
Net Assets: Can you tell us about the behavior tracking tools you're using?
Rodney Glasgow: For the past several years we’ve been using a combination of Veracross and Magnus Health as our student information systems (SIS) to meet a variety of needs from attendance tracking to financial reporting tools. Veracross offers a tool that allows us to track student records, including behavioral incidents. This helps me and other school leaders keep track of important details and trends reported by teachers. It's crucial for understanding behavior patterns and responding effectively. The system ensures we're well-informed in conversations about student incidents and allows us to address trends as they arise.
Net Assets: What kinds of behavioral trends might a school be able to track?
Glasgow: When tracking behavioral trends, we can ask questions like, “Are we seeing a spike in certain kinds of behavior? Are we seeing a spike from a certain grade or advisory group?” That way you can have some context to the human side of behavior management with kids, which is to not just see them as what's in the record, but what's going on around the record — what’s happening around the school.
For example, when the school first introduced students back to the classroom after remote learning, we saw some issues around vandalism. Having a digital record of when and where the vandalism occurred was important, yes, but more important was tracking it within the context of the pandemic, within the context of social emotionally stunted development. We didn’t want to excuse the behavior, but tracking the trend allowed us to understand it so that we addressed it not as individual student but as a school-wide cultural issue.
The caveat to all this is that data is only what you put into the system. It could enforce bias or create a misperception if biases inputs are left unchecked. One of the most important things in being able to track a trend reliably is to be objective in what you put into the system and to be equitable.
Miyoshi: A word of caution to other organizations is not to depend on solely on data input to identify and resolves issues. That's where technology gets a bad name. A behavior tracking tool is just one piece of the puzzle. Institutions must be able to pull other pieces together.
Net Assets: How can schools develop equitable school policy while learning more through data tracking?
Glasgow: One of the things we are focused on as a school is making sure we are equitable in grading — not only for students but also for adults. Is one teacher reporting a large number of students out of proportion with what other teachers are reporting? Out of the disciplinary flags, what is the distribution across gender, race or socioeconomic status? Just by virtue of being in one person's class rather than another can create differences, and that is something we are constantly monitoring on the academic side.
Net Assets: What impacts does this technology have on the business office?
Miyoshi: Just having a bird’s eye view of school culture is game changing. On the operations side, one or two students littering might not ever reach our radar, but consistent disregard for the environment can impact facilities and grounds management.
Last year, we put on a school-wide event called “Our People, Our Planet,” which was all about stewardship, one of our Quaker values. We talked to students about taking care of the earth around us, including the things we have here at Sandy Spring Friend School — our land, our buildings, you know, the desk you sit at — and why you shouldn’t carve your name into the bottom of the desk, for instance. We’ve since invited students to look at our compost to understand why you don't put the plastic in the compost. So I think it's really an educational process, and I've been really pleased to see how the community is accepting that challenge.
Glasgow: There is a financial and operational cost of behavior management. If vandalism is becoming an issue, are there ways can we shift campus operations to discourage the behavior? When and where to put cameras if we think people from outside the school are coming onto campus and doing damage? It impacts what you invest in financially. If you manage behavior well, there is a refund because you're not fixing things.
Net Assets: Looking to the future, what hopes or goals do you have for using this technology?
Glasgow: In an ideal world, we would no longer need behavior tracking. That’s the dream. Our goal is to foster a positive community where students are mindful of their actions. These tools will be used to create a comprehensive picture of students' needs and ensure a supportive environment.