I am often invited to present my Student Tracking System to schools as they have found that their existing data management system is not working or serving their needs.  I also recently had a colleague ask me to comment on a data management/tracking system he had set up using Microsoft Excel.  As a result of seeing many data management systems in all stages of development, as well as having gone through various iterations to develop a tracking system myself, I provide the following questions as a guide for you to rate your data management system.

  1. Is everything dated?
    Not only does the date give you a record of when something was done but it also allows you to filter information based on date.  For example, you can filter for a particular day, week, month, year or any combination of your choosing.  Ensure all entries are dated.
  2. Is the Student Identification Number included?
    The unique student identifier from your admin system should be included, even it is not used.  You never know when you will want to transfer your data into another system or integrate it with existing databases.  The student identifier allows this to be done efficiently and accurately.
  3. Can all teachers access the system simultaneously?
    Teachers are time poor and need to be able to record data efficiently and easily.  Paper based records secured in an office do not allow for easy access. Also, as various teachers interact with students, they need to be able to record relevant data into the system meaning that multiple teachers maybe recording information about the same student. If staff have easy access to the data management system, they are more likely to record the data.
  4. Is your data secure?
    Ensure data can’t be accidentally deleted or removed.  As teachers work with the data, they will want to manipulate the data to serve their needs and answer the questions they have about the students or groups of students.  This will involve moving columns, hiding or deleting data to only show what is relevant etc.  If a teacher then saves their results, the data that has been deleted will be lost.  An effective data management system will allow teachers to export information and manipulate it whilst preserving the original data.  Of course, backup procedures should also be in place.
  5. Are different views of the data possible?
    Does your system allow for information to be viewed both on an individual student basis as well as in class and scholastic year format.  Several of the schools I have worked with have an individual document for each student.  This satisfies the individual student view but does not allow for class/grade analysis.  Having individual files also means there is a lot of tedious manual work involved if you want to add something to the template.
  6. Is data recorded consistently?
    One of the steps involved in analysing data is ensuring that your data is clean meaning that data being analysed is in the same format.  For example, one teacher recording reading levels as L12, L13 and another recording them as 15, 17 etc will lead to problems of analysis, particularly if you wanted to graph results as a lot of reformatting will be required.  An effective data system will have built in rules or drop down lists to ensure data is recorded consistently to make the analysis step much easier for teachers.
  7. What happens when students leave the school?
    As students leave the school, their data needs to be hidden from the current teachers but needs to be available should it be required in later years.  Your data management system should allow you to archive students so that their data does not distract teachers from looking at their current class(es).
  8. Can your system accommodate change?
    What happens when something needs to be added to the system such as a new test or intervention programme?  As needs within a school change, there needs to be an efficient way for changes to be made to the data management system.
  9. Does the system match your assessment schedule?
    One of the tasks involved in setting up a data management system is working out which tests will be done when and by whom.  In order to measure progress over time it is important that “apples are compared with apples” and so the same/similar tests need to be given.  Working out the schedule of tests can take a lot of discernment and discussion to make sure that the tests are going to give the data that you require.
  10. Can you record all aspects of a student?
    Test results are one component of data in relation to students and their education.  It is also important to record other data such as attendance information, intervention programmes and anecdotal records.  Your data management system needs to be able to record these types of information to ensure the whole child is considered.

How does your data management system stack up?  Contact Andrew Redfern andrew@studenttracker.com.au or via mobile 0402054497 or @reditech on twitter to discuss your data management requirements.

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