Student Information Systems
School administrators are under a great deal of pressure to increase student academic accomplishments. At the same time, there are truly excessive demands on our time. State reports are onerous and continue to grow. The NJ Smart system is so time intensive that even medium size districts may need a full-time staff member to manage it. In the last few years alone, we had the added tasks of more teacher observations, Student Growth Objectives, and PARCC assessments.
Virtually all NJ schools have a student information system to help manage these arduous tasks. Without one, it is almost impossible to run a school and complete the state - federal reports. We use Realtime because the system is fully integrated. In a single data base, we have teachers grade book, lesson planner, student medical information, all student data, food service, scheduling, all special education data, parent portal, and communications. Every state and federal report is easily generated – this includes ASSA, NJ Smart, NJ School Report Card, Master Eligibility Reports and the Special Ed End of Year Report.
Increasing Student Achievement
Our student information system downloads all the test data from PARCC and enables us to sort it by teacher, subject test area, and sub tests. For example, the reading score will be broken down by literary, information, and vocabulary. This will enable the teachers to look at the scores the students received and tailor instruction to help them improve. In addition to the state standardized results, we have our benchmarks in the student information system and can evaluate them by grade level and individual teacher.
We also have a very useful tool in the system that enables us to analyze lesson plans and helps teachers see what standards they are teaching in their lessons. We can check the results of classroom, benchmark, and state assessments with the frequency in which we address the standards.
There is even a logical flow within and between our education services. Every task, including the development of I&RS Action plans, the creation of 504 and IEP documents, the management of meetings, and communications, even direct referrals from I&RS to Special Services, is seamless and ensures a student’s academic growth moves forward with accountability. Events are stored perpetually so our case managers can look back at prior events and the evaluations, making case management more efficient.
Teachers and Staff
As a district, we want parents to be able to track their children’s school progress; therefore it is important that teachers keep the grades in the student information system. The grades they enter generate report cards, progress reports, grade point averages, and skills-based reporting for the elementary level. Our teachers can enter grades from any internet-based computer, and parents can email teachers through the portal.
The Lesson Planner enables the teachers to develop daily and unit plans in individual, department or our district’s format. We have text boxes for each component of the plan that are saved to a database for retrieval and analysis. Teachers can automatically post assignments to their grade book that can be seen in the parent and student portals. The CCSS they teach are tracked. Teachers can print their plans in Word.
Our school nurses like our system because it is very easy to use. They report, “We love having everything at our fingertips. We don’t need to pull up a chart or go through paper files. The date and content of every parent meeting or student visit is in the system so we can see patterns and help them get better.” The nurses can also go back and add to notes from student visits. They track students that enter the district. If a student comes from a country that has a high rate of tuberculosis (or some other disease) the nurse can monitor the inoculation. In addition to tracking nurse's visits, it also records immunizations, allergies, screenings, medications, athletic physicals, and medical conditions. The teachers and nurses have quick access to emergency contacts.
Developing student schedules was a very long process. We are able to be proactive in developing the schedule by looking at the resource allocation chart. This chart tells us how many students are able to enroll in a class at a specific period. The system also lets us tie courses together. For example, we can tie PARCC literature and math for easier scheduling. The system also lets you roll over into the next year – so there is a chance to do a new schedule with just minor changes. Since the system is integrated, we can use factors such as grade level, race, gender, and ability levels to develop the schedules.
The schedule can be viewed as a mailer or full page. We can also print room utilization lists, class lists, master schedule, and teacher schedules.
Communications to Parents
Today, it is very important to maintain communications with parents. Our student data management system automatically generates letters to parents based on how many absences their children have. This is critical in helping students avoid failing because of excessive absences.
We can also type messages to parents into the system and they are turned into email, SMS text and/or synthesized speech. We use all the fields to target specific parent groups. We send messages for school cancellations, event reminders, and general announcements. Parents use the Portal to select the type of notification they receive. The system even does language translations based on the language spoken at home.
Our food service module is also part of the student data management system. The system alerts our staff to food allergies and notifies parents when they need to put more money in their children’s food service accounts. Student account management allows students to make purchases using prepaid accounts, lunch tickets, or cash. Intuitive user interface allows a single entry to record the student's purchase and post the charge to the student's prepaid account.
Through the Parent Portal parents have instant access to information on their children’s progress, test results, and homework. They can track their child's marking period grades and students can check their test scores.
Security is always of great concern for school districts. Realtime is actually able to provide a safer system than we could provide locally. They provide Internet standardized 128 Bit - SHA 256 SSL Encryption for all connections through the end-users browser. All student data and system applications are housed in a Tier-2 data center leveraging Alert Logic active monitoring in addition to internal monitoring to guard against Internet based intrusion. The data center has 24x7x365 security, biometrics, video surveillance, and three layer of NOC monitoring. All switches, routers, and firewall are designed with high availability and fail over capacity. Numerous district defined security parameters are offered to tailor security to their individual needs.
The old saying, “if you don’t measure it – it won’t get done” has some merit. An effective student information system helps teachers to analyze the results of instruction, communicate to parents, and meet the requirements of state reports.