The Statewide Student Information System Update

GundlachBy David J. Gund­lach, Ed.D., WASCD Board of Directors

Recently, the State Superintendent’s Dig­i­tal Learn­ing Advi­sory Coun­cil worked to develop a com­pre­hen­sive plan for K-​12 dig­i­tal learn­ing in Wis­con­sin. The coun­cil iden­ti­fied six issue areas includ­ing the following:

  • Ped­a­gogy and Instruction
  • Cur­ricu­lum and Assessment
  • Pro­fes­sional Learn­ing and Leadership
  • Data and Infor­ma­tion Systems
  • Poli­cies and Procedures
  • Hard­ware and Infrastructure

Included in this plan was the rec­om­men­da­tion that a statewide stu­dent infor­ma­tion sys­tem and data ware­house be imple­mented to facil­i­tate data based deci­sion mak­ing on the part of school systems.

In July of 2011 Wis­con­sin Act 32, or more com­monly known as the bien­nial bud­get bill, was signed into law. This bill included a pro­vi­sion that required the selec­tion and adop­tion of a Statewide Stu­dent Infor­ma­tion Sys­tem (SSIS) to fur­ther that goal. The bill also requires that all Wis­con­sin school dis­tricts adopt this new sys­tem within five years of implementation.

This man­date will have a sig­nif­i­cant impact on school dis­tricts through­out Wis­con­sin and school offi­cials are in the process of plan­ning for the changes nec­es­sary to imple­ment the sys­tem. This arti­cle will attempt to answer some ques­tions that school offi­cials might be ask­ing as they pre­pare their dis­tricts for this change.

What is a Statewide Student Information System (SSIS)?

Nearly every dis­trict uses some form of stu­dent infor­ma­tion sys­tem that is com­posed of a data­base hous­ing stu­dent data with either a browser-​based or application-​based method of enter­ing or access­ing infor­ma­tion. A Statewide Stu­dent Infor­ma­tion Sys­tem (SSIS) is very sim­i­lar to these sys­tems how­ever the data is either sent or resides at a cen­tral loca­tion allow­ing for easy, browser-​based, infor­ma­tion access and trans­fer by local dis­tricts and the state.

Some of the infor­ma­tion and processes han­dled by a SSIS would be the following:

  • Admis­sions processes includ­ing enrollment
  • Cre­ation and main­te­nance of class and teacher schedules
  • Main­tain­ing records of tests, assess­ments, grades and aca­d­e­mic progression
  • Main­tain­ing records of absences and attendance
  • Record­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions with pupils and parents
  • Main­tain­ing dis­ci­pline records
  • Pro­vid­ing sta­tis­ti­cal reports
  • Com­mu­ni­cat­ing stu­dent infor­ma­tion to par­ents through a par­ent portal
  • Spe­cial education/​individualized edu­ca­tion pro­gram (IEP) services
  • Main­tain­ing pupil health records

What is the timeline for the selection and implementation of the SSIS?

The Depart­ment of Pub­lic Instruc­tion is cre­at­ing a Request for Pro­posal (RFP) for ven­dors. Accord­ing to the DPI the RFP should be released in April 2012. Once pro­pos­als have been reviewed the final­ists will be eval­u­ated through the spring and sum­mer of 2012. After the selec­tion of a ven­dor, the state plans to have the con­tract signed by Decem­ber 2012. It is pro­jected that the first dis­tricts wish­ing to imple­ment the new SSIS will do so in the early months of 2013.

What are the advantages of a SSIS?

There are many advan­tages pro­vided to dis­tricts by a SSIS. First, Wis­con­sin con­sists of 424 dis­tricts, many of them small in size. A sys­tem based upon a tech­nol­ogy that scales well will pro­vide all school dis­tricts with a con­sis­tent, fully fea­tured, sys­tem includ­ing advanced data report­ing capa­bil­i­ties. Sec­ond, the new SSIS will be browser-​based, pro­vid­ing sim­i­lar ben­e­fits as other “cloud com­put­ing” ini­tia­tives that dis­tricts are increas­ingly pur­su­ing. Third, as stu­dents move from dis­trict to dis­trict their data can be trans­ferred with­out time con­sum­ing data entry on the part of cler­i­cal staff. Fourth, stu­dent infor­ma­tion and report­ing can be eas­ily pulled by the state from the SSIS as opposed to the cur­rent sys­tems nec­es­sary for state report­ing. Lastly, with all dis­tricts using the SSIS, the cost of pro­vid­ing ongo­ing and high qual­ity pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment around the use of the sys­tem can be shared.

What can a district do to prepare for this change?

There are sev­eral things a dis­trict can do to pre­pare for this change or any change in stu­dent infor­ma­tion sys­tems. The first and most impor­tant is to ensure that the data in your cur­rent sys­tem is accu­rate and up to date. This would require that a dis­trict has con­sis­tent, doc­u­mented, prac­tices on data entry and trained per­son­nel who are knowl­edge­able in not only data entry but how to review and check on the accu­racy and health of the cur­rent database.

Sec­ond, a dis­trict should iden­tify the var­i­ous data sys­tems that may need to inter­face with the SSIS. These may include user direc­tory sys­tems, food ser­vice sys­tems, secu­rity sys­tems, etc. It would be ben­e­fi­cial to have all these sys­tems iden­ti­fied includ­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the sys­tem ven­dors to artic­u­late meth­ods for mov­ing data into and out of their respec­tive systems.

Third, a dis­trict should iden­tify the peo­ple who will lead the project within their dis­trict. This may include tech­nol­ogy staff, office staff, spe­cial edu­ca­tion staff, teach­ers, and admin­is­tra­tors. Dis­tricts should also deter­mine when they would like to tran­si­tion to the new SSIS within the time allowed. Upon ven­dor selec­tion it is likely that the DPI will be solic­it­ing this infor­ma­tion to plan for an orderly tran­si­tion for all school districts.

Where can a district find more information?

To find more infor­ma­tion on the SSIS con­tact Lisa jo Von­All­men, This email address is being pro­tected from spam­bots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (608) 2679222. You can also go to the DPI's SSIS website.

Dave Gund­lach is Deputy Super­in­ten­dent in the Oshkosh School District.

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