School District 65 is implementing a new student data management system called “School Information System” (SISK12), developed by Tyler Technologies. “It has a number of fairly phenomenal features,” said Superintendent Hardy Murphy, “including a parent portal to increase communication and access to information for parents and other stakeholders.”
Lora Taira, assistant director of information services for the District, said the system will maintain standardized student data with a high level of security, enable District personnel to quickly access the information and to make better decisions by monitoring trends in attendance, discipline, test scores and other data, and enhance communication with parents.
She outlined some features of the new system:
Registration/Enrollment: The system will maintain a central database of students enrolled in the District, and it may be used to help streamline the enrollment process. The system also has a document management piece, which can electronically store documents for each student, such as a birth certificate. This year, the District used the system to help plan efficient bus routes.
Health Information: Teachers will have access to student health information, including allergies, immunizations and other medical conditions. The privacy and confidentiality of the information will be maintained in compliance with HIPAA, said Ms. Taira.
Test and Performance Tracking: Teachers will have access to assessment information for each student. Ms. Taira said the District will input Illinois Standard Achievement (ISAT) scores for each student, and will input results on the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) test and other curriculum-based assessments.
Grade Book: Teachers may use the grade book to track daily assignments, to record student progress on assignments, and to calculate and record end-of-term grades. Middle school teachers will be expected to use the grade book. Elementary school teachers are not encouraged to use the grade book, but will have the option to do so, said Ms. Taira.
Attendance/Discipline: Teachers will track attendance, suspensions and expulsions on the system, and will be able to analyze trends.
The District may use the system to send e-mail communications to parents.
The system may also be used to assist in teacher assignments and student scheduling. The District is still investigating other potential features, including features that assist in creating and tracking compliance with Individual Education Programs for students with a disability, in using Response to Intervention (RTI), and in processing applications for food services.
Paul Brinson, chief information officer for the District, said, “A key part of this is the tools they have for doing data analysis and bringing together all the pieces of data together on the teacher’s desktop, so the teachers can work with it … and know what’s going on with each child.”
He added, “We feel the system is very secure. … It uses the same transaction processing that is used by your bank account and other financial providers.”
Ms. Taira said the system is used by a lot of schools in Missouri and by schools in Fremont and Joliet. Mr. Brinson said Tyler provides computer services to more than 2,000 school districts. “The system is used quite extensively,” he said.
The Parent Portal
The system will provide parents and students with a portal that will allow them to have real-time access to certain information. Families will have access to a family calendar, attendance records, health records, the homework page, and, over time, the grade book. The grade book will not be available until teachers are more comfortable using the system, said Ms. Taira.
The portal will be accessible via a password-secure login, said Ms. Taira.
Board member Katie Bailey asked whether middle school teachers will be required to make the grade book available through the parent portal. This was apparently an open issue.
After a brief discussion, Dr. Murphy said, “There’s a tool available to us for making sure we have greater communication with parents, and I think the expectation is – from what everybody’s saying – we want it to be used on both sides of the equation: the teachers as far as reporting out what’s going on with students in the classroom, and the parents in terms of accessing that information. … I think that’s an expectation that we need to address.”
Paul Brinson said it would represent a “culture change” for teachers to open up their grade book. He said he saw three parts to rolling out the parent portal. “The first part is parents being able to see information about their student – to look at their attendance, to look at fairly concrete types of information,” he said. “The second part will be how we work with the grade book and the grade-reporting piece and how we open it up to parents. The third part is beginning to allow parents into the system to do things like upgrading addresses and that sort of thing.”
“Bringing parents into the system is a gradual process that will take place over the year,” Mr. Brinson added.
Dr. Murphy said, “If we’re talking about using this tool [the parent portal] and using it consistently, it’s going to have to be a District-wide expectation.”
The District is working on ways to make the parent portal accessible to parents without a computer in the home, and is considering placing computers in the Joseph E. Hill Early Childhood and Administration Center and at other locations.