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Addressing the Focus, Data & Usability of a Modern SIS

July 20th, 2017

Educators are starting to see that the traditional student information system (SIS) is no longer cutting it. There’s an ongoing shift towards systems that are modernized and focused on comprehensive student growth, with features to truly engage districts and promote student success.

Typically, the SIS is defined to address (but is not limited to) seven major categories of function: focus, data and information, insights and feedback, discipline, student scheduling, portal and users, and system interface.

The above graphic displays a basic chart of how these categories would be featured in a traditional versus modern SIS. All values in the right column represent a blueprint for building an effective and holistic SIS. In this post, we’ll examine three of these categories in greater detail.

Changing the Focus from Compliance to Student Growth

The main focus of a traditional SIS has been compliance. It revolves around questions such as, “Is the information within the system? How is the information reported to the state?” These questions are typically the biggest pain points for any SIS across the country.

But the modern SIS takes it a step further. It’s able to perform compliance, but the focus is around student growth. Districts can leverage student growth for early warning indicators, with opportunities to look beyond academic or attendance data. All the data can be intertwined to inform holistic decisions that don’t just center around one component of educating a child, but include information that pertain to a student’s social-emotional learning (SEL), their sense of belonging via culture and climate data and perception data, as well as academic standing.

If a student begins to fall through the cracks, districts and educators can make intelligent decisions to ensure all students get the support they need, especially students traditionally underserved. Educators can take into account multiple measures and consider perception data in their efforts. Districts will have the tools to help inform their comprehensive support services and provide wrap-around supports to ensure not one student gets left behind.

Going from Static to Dynamic Information & Data

Traditional systems rely on static information and collecting demographic information within this static context. The information is aggregated at the end of certain timeframes in order to report to various state systems.

The modern system features the same capability while having a different focus altogether. The focus is providing dynamic data and an aggregation of multiple measures that are in real time, which allows districts and sites the tools to make use of the information to educate the whole child. The system should provide thoughtful, meaningful focus points to allow a clear understanding of the healthiness of a child, school and organization.

By examining dynamic data, educators can be proactive (instead of reactive) in making real-time decisions related to student growth. This is the difference between data used strictly for accountability purposes and data used for school improvement and continuous growth.

Designing the Portal for User Engagement

As educators seek ways to get better around parent engagement, they are looking to actively communicate and engage with parents beyond viewing data. The traditional system might only give access to view-only information. One could see the data once it was reported, but there were few options of interacting with that information.

But the modern SIS can be a two-way communication piece that allows information to be shared both ways. As data comes in and out, parents will be able to engage with the educator in order to improve outcomes around academic and social and emotional data. It should provide instructional resources for parents to accelerate and enrich student learning, such as a “college-and-career” report to get a glimpse into a student’s academic success.

Parents should be able to access the portal and perform the following functions:

  • View grades, attendance, assignments, and assessment data from a dashboard
  • Use one login to view all students in a household on one screen
  • Send email communication to teachers through the portal
  • Set custom email alerts based on grades, attendance, and other relevant factors

When it comes to student growth, it’s time for educators to think differently in order to truly educate the whole child and understand the healthiness of an entire district.

A compliance-based system is no longer capable of ensuring all students are college-and-career ready to reach their highest potential, especially students that have been traditionally underserved—it needs to be modernized.

If you’d like to learn more about these features, read our white paper, Student Information Systems: Making the Move from Traditional to Modern.


Illuminate Education is a provider of educational technology and services offering innovative data, assessment and student information solutions. Serving K-12 schools, our cloud-based software and services currently assist more than 1,600 school districts in promoting student achievement and success. 

Ready to discover your one-stop shop for your district’s educational needs? Let’s talk.

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