Idaho: Swimming in a Sea of Data

##AUTHORSPLIT##<--->Meridian Charter High School Searches for a Student Information Management Solution to Improve Student Learning.

Lost in the "great barrier reef" of data, Meridian Charter High School was in search of a solution, much like Marlin was searching for his son, Nemo, in Finding Nemo. All schools are awash in a sea of data, swimming in confusion, trying to find a way to synthesize the volume of information to improve student learning.

At the fall superintendents' meeting, Wayne Rush of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation presented the revolutionary idea of implementing a statewide student information system. Meridian Charter High School teachers and administrators who were aware of the quality of programs implemented by the foundation and were not satisfied with our present system became very excited about the Idaho Student Information Management System (ISIMS) project. In the spring, Meridian Charter High School joined three school districts to pilot the newly developed system. While the indirect goal of the ISIMS project is to improve student performance, the vast modules available through the project provide a management system for all data used, collected and reported by schools.

While training began for the pilot schools in the spring, data conversion is now complete and attendance recording has begun in the ISIMS. The system handles student demographics, registration, course scheduling, attendance, transcripts, diploma management, teacher information, fee management, and timetables. An electronic gradebook will soon be available that will give parents access to their child's grades from home. All of these are typical functions of a student management system.

Administrators' Perspective

From the administrators' perspective, this system will save time and aid in the day-to-day operation of the school. Information such as attendance, statistics and reports from the Idaho Basic Education Data System (IBEDS), and teacher certifications - to name just a few - will someday be accessed by the Idaho State Department of Education directly from the Web site. This Web-based access will make reporting of state and federal programs more consistent, as well as create a consistency among statewide class codes. The uniformity of classes, codes and student numbers should help smoothly expedite the transfer of students within the state system. This system will facilitate the use of all data by electronically housing an enormous database of information statewide in one location. Administrators will have all their information within reach of their computer, rather than stored in binders, closets and file cabinets. They will also now be able to facilitate the disaggregating of data at the speed of a computer; thus, enabling administrators to easily monitor and evaluate school programs, student learning, instructional practices, school improvement plans and performance measures. An exciting feature will be the ability to monitor the alignment of curriculum with the state standards. This will facilitate the alignment of textbooks, competencies and lessons to the state standards, which should improve instruction and performance.

Teachers' Perspective

From the teachers' perspective, modules in the ISIMS will guide their instruction, help them develop curriculum, monitor student progress, as well as communicate student progress to parents and students. Information from this system will assist teams to understand the data, as well as use this data to chart a course for learning and excellence in the classroom. Best practices in education will be a click away on the Web, and the teaching of the state standards will be easier to ascertain. In addition, assessment will be easily tied to the standards or competency taught. The instructional staff will be able to utilize the ISIMS to aid in the day-to-day process of student data management. They will also have access to informed instruction with the goal of increased student achievement.

Students and parents will be able to use the student management system to access their grades, lessons, curriculum, administrators and instructional staff from the Web. This should help to improve the communication between schools, students and parents, as well as provide for real-time information and data on student progress. Monitoring student progress and instructional practices should be much easier once all of the modules are in place.

Every teacher and administrator is cognizant of the need to collect, analyze and use data to improve student learning, but we have been swimming in a sea of data. Our need to have a comprehensive system that could house and deliver this data will soon be available to all through the ISIMS. Meridian Charter High School, as well as Kuna, Firth and Kellogg school districts are privileged to help define the systems that will improve education. Our appreciation g'es to the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation for continuing to serve and fulfill the needs of education in Idaho.

Online Resources

This article originally appeared in the 07/01/2004 issue of THE Journal.