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The Hidden Costs: How Manual Attendance Tracking Damages Schools and Disrupts Parent Engagement

Paul Organ

February 16, 2024

Knowing where your students are when they are in the care of a school is paramount to student safety. We've come across many schools who track attendance using slow, outdated software that does a poor job of accurately tracking attendance – or we see teachers who take it upon themselves to create an Attendance Sheet on tools like Excel or Google Sheets just to keep track of their students (for example, this Attendance Sheet Google Sheets template is one of the most popular resources on our website...)

And these tools do the job to a certain extent.

But, attendance tracking isn’t just ticking boxes; there's a hidden cost for the whole school community - students, teachers, and even parents.

In this short article, we're going to explore why inefficient manual attendance tracking tends to rack up some exuberant hidden costs for both schools and parents.

The Financial Toll

Labor Intensive Processes

Research from the National Center for Education Statistics reveals that the average teacher spends approximately 10 minutes per day on attendance-related tasks. In a school with 50 teachers, this translates to over 400 hours of staff time per academic year.

Manual attendance tracking not only consumes staff time but also impacts parents. Research indicates that parents spend an average of 30 minutes per absence navigating outdated phone systems or composing emails to notify schools. Across a school year, this can accumulate to hours of lost productivity.

Opportunity Costs

Beyond the direct labor expenses, the opportunity cost of manual attendance tracking becomes apparent when considering the valuable time that could be redirected towards activities directly impacting student learning.

For instance, those minutes spent on attendance could otherwise be allocated to instructional planning or student support initiatives.

Human Error and Inaccuracy

Studies indicate that manual attendance tracking processes have error rates ranging from 1-3%, leading to discrepancies in records that demand additional resources for correction - (we commonly see full-time staff who simply follow up on attendance discrepancies costing schools between $70k-$100k/yr).

In a school with a larger student population, these inaccuracies can result in the misallocation of resources and potential compliance issues. 

The Educational Impact

Disrupted Learning Environments

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Every minute spent on manual attendance tracking interrupts classroom instruction and disrupts the learning environment. With an average of 180 instructional days per academic year, even small disruptions can accumulate to significant learning loss over time.

Ineffective Interventions

Studies show a direct correlation between attendance rates, student wellbeing and academic achievement. Without timely and accurate attendance data, schools struggle to identify at-risk students and implement effective intervention strategies.

Research from Attendance Works reveals that each percentage point increase in attendance can lead to a 1-2% increase in standardized test scores.

Limited Attendance Data Insights

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Manual attendance tracking processes lack the analytical capabilities to extract meaningful insights from attendance data.

Automated systems, on the other hand, provide detailed reports and analytics, enabling schools to identify trends, patterns, and areas for improvement. According to a survey by EdTech Digest, schools using attendance automation software report a 20-30% reduction in absenteeism rates within the first year of implementation.

The Parent Experience

Phone Calls

Imagine the frustration of trying to reach the school's attendance office during peak hours, only to be greeted by a busy tone or endless holding music. For parents, navigating phone-based attendance systems can feel like a game of chance, with no guarantee of reaching a live person to report their child's absence.


"Someone will get my message eventually"
"Someone will get my message eventually"

Sending attendance-related emails can be equally frustrating, especially when faced with delayed responses or automated replies. Parents may worry about whether their message was received and whether their child's absence has been properly documented.

Clunky Apps

Some schools offer attendance tracking apps or portals for parents to report absences and monitor their child's attendance. However, if these apps are clunky or difficult to use, they only add to parents' frustration and may discourage them from engaging with the school's attendance system altogether.

(Here's what reporting an absence could look like for your parents)

Impact on Enrollment

Research conducted by the National Association of Independent Schools found that 85% of parents consider a school's communication practices when evaluating enrollment options. Schools with cumbersome attendance systems may lose prospective families to competitors offering more streamlined processes.

The Case for Automation and Improvement

Streamlined Communication

Automated attendance systems facilitate seamless communication between parents and schools, reducing reporting time from minutes to seconds. This efficiency fosters trust and strengthens parent-school relationships.

Enhanced User Experience

Modern attendance tracking apps offer intuitive interfaces that empower parents to report student absences, monitor attendance records, and communicate with school staff easily. By prioritizing user experience, schools can boost parent engagement and satisfaction.

Protecting Reputation

Investing in automated attendance solutions safeguards the school's reputation as forward-thinking and parent-centric. Research shows that schools with efficient communication systems experience higher rates of parent satisfaction and retention.

Improve & Automate Attendance Tracking

Manual attendance tracking not only imposes financial and educational costs on schools but also damages their reputation and disrupts parent engagement.

By investing in automation and improvement, schools can streamline communication channels, enhance the parent experience, and protect their reputation in the competitive education landscape.

Ultimately, a modernized attendance system benefits everyone involved, fostering stronger parent-school partnerships and promoting student success.

Register: Free Orah Class Attendance Training Webinar

See how Orah solves class attendance tracking – get inspired with a hands-on training webinar delivered to you by the Co-Founders of Orah, Paul & Kurt.

Register now to watch on-demand.

Orah's Attendance Tracking Software

Taking the roll in Orah

Learn more about Class Attendance tracking in Orah, see how it works or get a demo from one of the Orah team.


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Paul Organ

I live in Auckland, New Zealand. I enjoy exercise, sauna's and cold plunges, video games and design. Prior to Orah (10 years ago now!) I was a University Student studying my Masters of Architecture. There are two important things that keep me enthused at work - Using creativity to solve complex problems and working with good people.

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