With current emphasis on tracking every aspect of American life, it is of little wonder that one of the hottest young businesses is nFocus, an Arizona-based software company specializing in developing and marketing tracking software to schools, community organizations and government agencies.
Children spend 87% of their time outside the classroom, clearly time that the state cannot so easily monitor or direct. To fill in this gap, nFocus launched its first commercial off-the-shelf software, KidTrax Member Management, in 1995.
Each child in the program receives a barcoded ID card, much like a driver’s license, which is then swiped by care providers. In this way, schools and community organizations can share a wealth of information on the child, ostensibly to assist with their educational goals. After all, “–it’s really hard to have an academic focus if you’re not connected to the schools,” says Jen Reinhart, vice president over policy for the Afterschool Alliance, a national advocacy group.
The amount of information linked to this little card is staggering:
- Social Security number
- Contact information
- Counseling sessions
- Referrals to social services
- Doctor and insurance information
- Whether the family accepts food stamps
- Behavior reports
- Notes on home life
- Any number of areas the organization sees a need to track
Although in use in 3,500 sites across the country, Jefferson County, Ky., is the first school district to implement KidTrax districtwide. So far, everyone seems enthusiastic about the program. School administrators and community organizations are seen as working together, and parents seem to appreciate the easy flow of information without having to do any extra work themselves.
“The schools have the kids for six hours a day, but we have those same exact kids the minute they leave the building, and I’m open until 8 each night. I’ve got them for the next six hours,” said Don Shaw, executive director of the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Clubs in Louisville.
“I mean, my goodness, why shouldn’t we work together?” he said. — CNN
Indeed. I’m not sure which is more frightening. The ease of which so much of our personal data can be stored and shared, or the lack of concern on the part of parents. Six hours per day in the public school followed by six hours in after school care amounts to breakfast and a quick bedtime story with parents who don’t have the time to keep track of their own children.
“People who oversee those documents are more concerned about it than the parents are,” deputy superintendent Martin Bell said. “Parents have the attitude, ‘If it’s going to help my kid, why wouldn’t I want the information to be known?'” — Ibid.
Only a few of the several thousand parents have refused to give permission for this tracking system.
Other company highlights:
In 2000, KidTrax was deployed statewide in Indiana and used in 54 sites. The Illinois Alliance purchased the program to track teen involvement the same year. (Interestingly, they require their members to report performance measurements gained from this tracking over to one of their funders, the state Department of Human Services.)
In 2001, the city of Louisville, Ky., and Jefferson County schools partnered with nFocus to begin tracking students in school and afterschool activities.
In 2003, KidTrax was deployed statewide in California Police Activities Leagues, and in 2004, Ontario, Canada, purchased the program to track youth in facilities throughout the province.
Ananda Roberts, President and CEO of the company, was appointed to serve on the Presidential Business Commission in Washington, D.C. in 2002 and again in 2005. This commission is described as “–an elite group of leading business professionals and political strategists recognized for extraordinary leadership in supporting the President’s initiatives and advocating for a pro-business agenda in Washington.”
KidTrax also has a number of federal government and military contracts.
I wonder how tracking software could be at all useful to any of our President’s initiatives? This certainly could not be anything like a model for a national system of sharing student information.