Student information systems: the basics

Gary FalconSchool Management

Whether you are just starting up a new small private school or you’ve grown to a size that is hard to manage by hand, you’ve probably heard about the myriad computer software options that are out there for your school. SIS, LMS, email, clouds – there are a lot of things out there to research and learn about.

In this series of posts, we will walk you through some of the systems that are out there, what they do, and how they might benefit your school.

Part 1: Student information systems

 A student information system, sometimes called an SIS, acts as the nervous system of your school. It is what helps your staff keep track of student information. In the best cases it acts as your central operations hub, allowing school staff to spend less time on spreadsheets and administrative tasks, and more time focused on support of teachers and students.

Frequently asked questions:

What are some of the major functions of an SIS?

Although the specifics of an SIS vary, depending on the system you select, there are a few key areas where an SIS is typically used.

  • Safely and securely storing student information – This can encompass just about any information your school needs to have access to, but typically consists of addresses, contact information, parent/guardian information, etc.
  • Creating and retaining student transcript information – Particularly at the high school level, student transcripts are important documents that students and parents will request access to. An SIS keeps this information organized and makes it easy for school staff to process transcript requests.
  • Graduation requirement tracking – In addition to transcripts, parents and students often need to understand how they are progressing toward their graduation goals. Your SIS can help with degree audits and similar requirement tracking.
  • Teacher/class schedules – As the school year or semester begins, school administration can spend a lot of time planning teacher schedules, course offerings, and ensuring student schedules work out correctly. An SIS helps with this process, making it easier to see conflicts and move class times or teachers around.
  • Student historic educational/behavioral notes – This could include everything from standardized test scores, IEP/ESE status, previous suspension or expulsion records, attendance reports, and more. If there is information that should be on a student’s record so administration can refer back to it in the future, your SIS is where that information should be stored. 

Is an LMS the same thing?

A learning management system can go hand-in-hand with your SIS, and there are some hybrid software options that combine both into one integrated program, but they refer to two different things. An LMS (which we will go into more detail about in a future post) is often used as a virtual classroom for teachers, students, and parents to access on a regular basis. 

How big does my school need to be to benefit from an SIS? What if we only have a few students?

Schools of all sizes benefit from having organized and professional systems in place for school management.  There is something out there for everyone — student information system for small schools, even down to as few as 5 students, or, if your school is very large, – with thousands of students – there is still an SIS out there for you. This is one of many reasons why it is important to talk to vendors about your school’s individual needs.

How will my teachers and/or staff learn how to use an SIS? It sounds complicated.

A great SIS vendor offers implementation training and support for anyone at your school that needs it. Look for vendors that provide training sessions for administration, as well as teachers, and who offer continuing support once you’re up and running. With a little help, your teachers and staff will be experts in no time.

Okay. I’m interested in an SIS. How do I choose?

We’ve got just what you’re looking for. Please download your checklist for choosing private school management software below. Print it out, take notes, and use it! It will serve as a great starting place for conversations with your staff, with vendors, and with any other stakeholders you might need to involve in your decision.