This year, District Administration’s Readers’ Choice Top 100 Products features selections from more than 1,500 nominations that range from cutting-edge student information systems and cloud-based security to innovative gamification software and state-of-the-art classroom projectors.
Administrators and school leaders nationwide have shared feedback on a wealth of education resources to help their K12 peers find the best products to achieve district excellence.
SIS vendors are working to develop technologies that work across all platforms and are cloud-based. Particular effort is being devoted to the design of user interfaces to create easy and intuitive functionality so that accessing an SIS is as simple as navigating a social media program on a phone.
Widespread use of digital learning materials, an intensifying focus on achievement and the influx of digital devices into classrooms are increasing districts’ need to have some form of learning management systems (LMS), experts say.
For a number of years, an aging student information system (SIS) plagued Bethlehem Central Schools, located near Albany, New York. By spring 2013, it was apparent new software was needed to maintain the data about the district’s 4,900 students.
“We correctly predicted our SIS would soon be considered end-of-life and would no longer be supported,” says Dr. Sal DeAngelo, chief technology officer for the district. “We wanted to stay ahead of the curve and find a new solution before that happened.”
Industry experts and district technology officers offered a number of thoughts on what K12 school systems should know before investing in a new or upgraded student information system. The questions they suggest asking are:
Scott Smith once led efforts for North Carolina’s technology educators, when he served as president of the N.C. Technology in Education Society (NCTIES), the state’s affiliate of the International Society for Technology in Education. Now, he is chief technology officer for the Mooresville (N.C.) Graded School District—a suburban town located 20 miles north of Charlotte. It’s one of the only public school districts in the country to issue laptops to every student in grades 3-12.
There are plenty of lessons in predictive analysis models, according to a 2011 white paper, “Worst Practices in Predictive Analysis,” by Information Builders, a company that focuses on enterprise business intelligence and Web reporting software solutions. Here is how to avoid them:
• Determine the ROI. When planning to implement predictive analysis, consider the total cost and the anticipated return to ensure the maximum value is achieved.
Predicting the future is now in the hands of K12 administrators. While for years districts have collected thousands of pieces of student data, educators have been using them only for data-driven decision-making or formative assessments, which give a “rear-view” perspective only.
Lee County Public Schools in Fort Myers, Fla., performed a full migration of its data center, complete with new storage solutions, more than three years ago. With a $500,000 budget for the conversion—one-third of what surrounding districts had spent for similar initiatives—Lee County couldn’t afford bells and whistles.
Readers spoke out in the largest numbers yet for District Administration’s 2011 Readers’ Choice Top 100 Products awards. The DA editorial staff spent days sifting through hundreds of submissions and learning about new and innovative education products nominated by readers. Nominations were accepted via the DA Web site from March through Sept. 15, 2011. Each nomination required a testimonial from a school administrator to allow us to understand how the product specifically impacted a school or district. Some products received more than 70 unique nominations.
Deer Park ISD, located outside of Houston, started 2008 with all its systems in place and no major implementations or changes on the horizon. But within a year, the district had three major new system installations underway.
Most school districts face more mandates and less funding each year, so many search for solutions to save across the board. The Alvarado (Texas) Independent School District turned to technology to save money. The district, which has 500 staff members, 11 of whom are IT, sought to find a way to leverage technology to help bridge the gap in business processes that can in part lead to high overhead operational costs. And the district wanted to streamline the business process of paperwork when a student enrolls and fills out paperwork to get network accounts.