New student information system including
Gradebook and Parent Portal for Fall, 2014
By Dr. Robert Smiley, Chief Information Officer
Student Information Systems (SIS) are the backbone of all schools; they are the software used to track student course schedules, grades and gradebooks, attendance and discipline, class rosters and registrations, health records, parent information. In other words, a SIS stores the data for all aspects of a student’s academic record.
Even through a traditional lens, the list of what these systems tracked was exhaustive. In today’s contemporary school environments, the list of what a Student Information System tracks extends further and becomes increasingly complex. For example, today’s gradebooks are more than A-B-C; they must include State Standards and Common Core goals. The family record is not just a traditional tree with a mother and father, but also a bush with step parents, grandparents, foster parents, guardians, and single-gender parents.
This need for contemporary data systems extends to PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention Services) and RtI (Response to Intervention) data as well. Successful implementation of both is required, and demand solid data systems. As if this were not enough, the security features of a complex environment require a sophisticated software to carefully manage and control who can access what data.
A strong system has been shown to advance the use of data to guide instruction, while a poorly designed system will hold back achievement gains.
We presently have two systems that are not contemporary and do not share data. To complicate and make matters worse, we have inefficient data practices that have resulted from the use of these two systems. For example, our enrollment process is almost all paper, requiring a family with two or three children more than an hour to complete all the paperwork. IEP Data are also almost all in paper forms.
Discipline referrals are all paper based, and the data have to be double entered into two completely separate and distinct systems. In addition, our student fee collection process is not efficient. There are many more examples of limits, inefficiencies, and double/triple data entry with these archaic systems.
State of Wisconsin RFP Process:
The State of Wisconsin completed an extensive RFP (Request for Proposal) process last year, July 10, 2012. The focus of this was to evaluate competing Student Information Systems, searching for the one with the richest feature set, lowest cost, and greatest vision. The work of the State was reviewed by the law firm of DeWitt, Ross, and Stevens, and was found to be “appropriately geared to afford all vendors an equal opportunity to compete.” The review of the State’s process went on, “There was no bias in favor or against any bidder. The RFP was drafted to identify the best possible vendor for the job at the best possible price.”
The School District of Janesville needs a modern and contemporary Student Information System (SIS). With the advancement of mobile devices, including iPads, Tablets, Smartphone’s, Chrombooks, etc., we need not only a contemporary data solution, but a solution that operates on multiple devices with varying screen sizes and operating systems.
We cannot wait any longer on PBIS and RtI data, and it’s critical that these data be available to teachers from within the gradebook. We cannot continue to double and triple enter data into archaic systems. We cannot continue to be held back by inefficient paper systems for enrollment and registration.
By leveraging the State’s RFP process, and moving to a contemporary software solution, we are able to (1) move to a single solution, (2) address our unmet and outstanding data needs, (3) and lower our annual costs by 20%.
We have a target “Go Live” date of July 1, 2014. For the 2013-2014 school year, we will utilize our existing software for the entire year, while training staff, converting data, and establishing new processes in the new system. In order to be ready for fall 2014, we need to begin soon. The first target we need to meet is in October to have the course master ready for Spring Enrollment.
While we gain significant efficiencies, and will no longer use paper systems, or separate Excel spreadsheets to record data, there will be a learning curve for all staff. We will use a just-in-time training professional development model, focusing on different groups as they need the information. This includes everyone who has anything to do with student data records: Building Secretaries (i.e.: Calendars), Guidance Counselors (i.e.: schedules), Special Education Staff (i.e.: IEPs), and Teaching Staff (i.e.: gradebooks).