The First Step in Student Data Tracking. Your District’s Student Information System.
We will be writing more in the next few weeks about the data gathering and tracking of children at school, how it is gathered and where it goes for ‘research’. The first gathering point of student data comes from your school’s Student Information System (SIS). My school district uses Infinite Campus for its data tracking of its students. Here’s a visual of what Infinite Campus (or any other SIS) gathers to gauge ‘student achievement’. From wikipedia:
(click on graphic to enlarge)
A student information system (SIS) is a software application for education establishments to manage student data. Student Information Systems (often abbreviated as SIS systems) provide capabilities for entering student test and other assessment scores, build student schedules, track student attendance, and manage many other student-related data needs in a school.
The SIS is equivalent to an Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP system for a corporate customer. As such, many of the issues with ERP System Selection Methodology, implementation, and operation of an ERP system apply too.
You can see this information includes: assessment, transportation, food services, library data and other data for the school is gathered as well: human resource, finance, special education and ‘other’. Does that ‘other’ include assessments as they pertain to attitudes, values and beliefs? Watch these data sets of ‘other’.
As stated above, the SIS is equivalent to an Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP system for a corporate customer. As such, many of the issues with ERP System Selection Methodology, implementation, and operation of an ERP system apply too.
Let’s look at what an ERP System means and as you read the definition, think about how it fits into a school building and the purpose of education and how your child is considered by the system:
Enterprise system software is a multi-billion dollar industry that produces components that support a variety of business functions. IT investments have become the largest category of capital expenditure in United States-based businesses over the past decade. Though early ERP systems focused on large enterprises, smaller enterprises increasingly use ERP systems.
The ERP system is considered a vital organizational tool because it integrates varied organizational systems and facilitates error-free transactions and production. However, ERP system development is different from traditional systems development. ERP systems run on a variety of computer hardware and network configurations, typically using a database as an information repository.
Your children are not so much seen as children, but increasingly more like widgets in a system and return on investments. A SIS is the foundation for the data base and an information repository for various federal agencies and third party researchers. How does that make you feel as a parent that you (and others) can now ‘track’ your child in real time during the school day? Is your human capital responding sufficiently to the outcomes desired by the school? As a parent do you feel the need to constantly track your child? Should the child and others have instant access to his/her data points?
This writer offers an observation from teachers, parents and students in I Will Not Check My Son’s Grades Online Five Times a Day:
I am fairly certain that the fear of facing me with bad academic news was the only thing that kept my kids in line. Take away that moment when they have to look us in the eye, admit to not having studied and the ensuing results….not on your life! -Lisa Endlich Heffernan, mother of three and parenting blogger at Grown & Flown
We don’t use the info, either. We just talk to our kids. -Elena Marshall, mother of eight
Teachers and administrators have mixed feelings:
I like that parents can check grades and I encouraged them to do so. I feel that open communication between home and school is essential in educating children, and only sending midterm and final grades home makes grades seem like a big secret. With parent access on PowerSchool, there are no secrets. I am bothered, however, by parents who CONSTANTLY check…sometimes 5 or 6 times a day. These parents tend to be the ones who push their children the hardest and are the first to complain when grades aren’t entered on the DAY an assignment is due. As a language arts teacher with 60 papers to grade, I just can’t do that! I’m not sure parents realize the school can see how many times they access the portal. –Mindi Rench, mother of two and junior high literacy coach and education blogger
Teacher Gina Parnaby tweeted that PowerSchool is a “Bane. Stresses my students out to no end. Freaks parents out b/c they see grades not as a communication but as judgment.” Teacher Dana Salvador wrote in an email that i-Parent, the parent portal her school has implemented is a moot issue for her. This is not because the parents have not chosen to use the software, but the parents of her low-income, ESL students don’t speak English and there is no Spanish version of the software.
For a sampling of what students think about PowerSchool, one need look no far than Twitter.
Here are a few students’ thoughts from twitter on their personal information being tracked via Infinite Campus:
This will give you some idea of what type of information is being accessed on your child. Remember that individual data is not necessarily safe and can be hacked. Do you remember the Park Hill (MO) data breach? From Park Hill Data Breach One of Many to Come:
Park Hill School District in the Kansas City suburbs finally announced that back in April they had a data breach of student and faculty data, including social security numbers and employee records. A former employee enabled the data of over 10,000 students and faculty to be accessed on the internet. The breach was discovered when someone did a simple Google search. An extensive investigation involving the FBI took place and finally, in July, the individuals whose data was mistakenly made public were informed of the breach and offered fraud monitoring services.
Well that’s just fantastic. For three months, while those on the inside investigated how it happened and who all had been affected, no one in Park Hill even knew there had been a breach. The overriding bureaucratic decision not to “panic the public” meant that potential identify fraud could be occurring for 90 days before anyone even knew there was a problem. There was no chance to put a block on your child’s credit just in case. Just let the officials do their job and when they are ready, they will tell you what they allowed to happen. At the end of the day the important thing is to maintain the image of control for the district, it’s not the children.
Stay tuned for Step Two on unraveling the data mining on your child by your school district. We’ll be connecting the dots on data tracking and explaining where the local SIS data is being sent. Your district must capture this data (hence the need for district SIS) from the mandates set out for state data gathering information via the 2009 AARA Stimulus Package. From Stimulus Boosted State Data Systems, Despite Compliance Hurdles:
“Many of the indicators and descriptors laid the groundwork for the department’s education reform initiatives and have been incorporated into those initiatives, particularly Race to the Top, [No Child Left Behind Act waivers], and the School Improvement Grants program,” said Dorie Nolt, a spokeswoman for the Education Department.
Among the new data points required: average test-score gains for specific subgroups of students, the number of lowest-performing schools that have been shuttered, and whether a state provides student-growth data to teachers.
How does a state get this data? From district Student Information Systems.