Last fall, high-school senior Duane Wilson started getting D's on assignments in his Advanced Placement history, psychology and literature classes. Like a smoke detector sensing fire, a school computer sounded an alarm.

The Edline system used by the Montgomery County, Md., Public Schools emailed each poor grade to his mother as soon as teachers logged it in. Coretta Brunton, Duane's mother, sat her son down for a stern talk. Duane hit the books and began earning B's. He is headed to Atlanta's Morehouse College in the fall.

If it hadn't been for the tracking system, says the 17-year-old, "I might...

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