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Local and State Education Agencies Essay

Dear Colleagues,

The purpose of this document is to provide a stand-alone guide for local and state education agencies faced with the task of designing a new or upgrading an existing automated student information system. While based on a chapter from the Student Data Handbook for Elementary, Secondary, and Early Childhood Education, this guide contains additional information from a variety of resources, most of which are cited in the text. Included in the contents are guidelines, checklists, and real-life examples.

This document was commissioned by the National Education Statistics Agenda Committee (NESAC) of the National Forum on Education Statistics (a part of the National Cooperative Education Statistics System) and funded by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the U.S. Department of Education.

Through contract with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and NCES funding, this document was developed by Barbara S. Clements of Evaluation Software Publishing, Inc. It is an adaptation of the chapter, Building a Student Record System, contained in the Student Data Handbook for Elementary, Secondary, and Early Childhood Education: 2000 Edition. Beth Young of NCES and Oona Cheung of CCSSO provided overall guidance to and management of this activity. Comments on the text were gratefully received from state and local education agency staff including Raymond Yeagley, Rochester (NH) School District, Lee Tack, Iowa Department of Education, Bethann Canada, Virginia Department of Education, and Carol Hokenson, Minnesota Department of Children, Families, and Learning. Design assistance was provided by The Creative Shop. The original Student Data Handbook was developed in 1994 by NCES. It was the result of the collaborative effort and work of NCES staff and contractors, the NESAC Student Data Task Force, local, state and federal education representatives and researchers from around the country. We hope this document will provide you with useful and interesting information to aid in designing your automated student record system.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting, analyzing, and reporting data related to education in the United States and other nations. It fulfills a congressional mandate to collect, collate, analyze, and report full and complete statistics on the condition of education in the United States; conduct and publish reports and specialized analyses of the meaning and significance of such statistics; assist state and local education agencies in improving their statistical systems; and review and report on education activities in foreign countries. NCES activities are designed to address high priority education data needs; provide consistent, reliable, complete, and accurate indicators of education status and trends; and report timely, useful, and high quality data to the U.S. Department of Education, the Congress, the states, other education policymakers, practitioners, data users, and the general public. We strive to make our products available in a variety of formats and in language that is appropriate to a variety of audiences. You, as our customer, are the best judge of our success in communicating information effectively. If you have any comment or suggestions about this or any other NCES product or report, we would like to hear from you.


The national focus on student outcomes has placed an additional burden on our nation’s schools, school districts, and state education agencies, for they must monitor the achievement of individual students, as well as groups of students, and show that all students are meeting high standards for learning. An education organization’s ability to meet this challenge is affected by the organization’s access to complete, accurate, and timely information about its students. This booklet has been developed to help education organizations plan and implement efficient systems for maintaining and using individual student records so that effective decisions can be made for the benefit of the students.

Many schools, school districts, and state education agencies already collect and use data effectively. However, the proliferation of new reporting requirements and dramatic changes in technology have had a profound effect on the need for student data and the education community’s ability to manage student records. Purchase of more powerful computer hardware and software and the reconfiguration of information systems have become essential components in efforts to meet the needs of all students.

There is probably no single best information system solution that can meet the needs of all 90,000+ public schools, 16,000+ school districts, 27,000 private schools, and 57 education agencies in states and outlying areas. However, there are certain steps that could help all education organizations to determine the best solution for their particular situations. This booklet can lead education organization decision-makers through the process of making the best and most cost-effective decisions about information management systems devoted to individual student records.

Building an Automated Student Record System describes steps that are useful for education organizations to follow when planning for, designing, and implementing an automated student record system. This booklet should be particularly useful if your school or district is moving from paper records to automated student records or if you are revising or replacing an existing system. In addition, you may find information that is useful if your state education agency is building a new student record system or expanding the collection of individual student records.

Contents of this Booklet
Included are twelve steps to consider when developing and implementing an automated student record system. Many of these steps are relevant to the implementation of any administrative record system, but our focus here is on the special considerations relating to student records, including confidentiality and access.

After a general discussion about student records and student record systems, each step is described. Examples, case studies, and checklists are \ included to help you work your way through the steps and make crucial decisions. Related resource documents will be described for some of the steps.

It should be noted that this book is derived from a chapter that appears in the National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) Student Data Handbook for Elementary, Secondary, and Early Childhood Education: 2000 Edition. In addition, information from other documents developed or sponsored by NCES and the advisory group, the National Forum on Education Statistics, are referenced and parts included in this booklet. Each of these documents is described in the Resource List at the end of the booklet, along with ways to obtain copies of the printed documents or the online versions.

Student record is, by definition, any written information about a student. Student records can be described in terms of their contents (e.g., courses taken, grade point averages), use (e.g., identifying students eligible for the free lunch program), and storage medium (e.g., a manila file folder). The maintenance of extensive, accurate, historical, and current data about individual students is essential to the functioning of schools and school districts, and can promote effective educational practices at all levels of the education system.

The contents of the student record are determined by the uses of the records. Typical contents may include family information, courses taken and grades, special program participation information, immunization records, assessment scores, extracurricular activities, and other information that is used by the education system to promote student success and provide appropriate services. Some of this information should be standard across classrooms, schools, districts, and states, while other information can be unique to the particular classroom, school, or district.

Student records are used for many important educational purposes, including instruction and guidance decisions; monitoring compliance with attendance and health laws; and administrative purposes, such as determining tuition status, scheduling students into classes, planning school bus routes, monitoring program completion, and completing reports for local, state, and federal authorities. The student record usually contains the information necessary for each of these purposes at the school or district level. Instructional management systems are frequently linked to student record systems to provide more analytical capability for teachers and administrators. These systems allow for student learning plans, individualized education plans (IEPs), portfolios, and other student products to be stored and retrieved for instructional decision-making and achievement monitoring.

A student record may be kept on file in a classroom, school office, school district office, intermediate agency, state education agency, or other approved location. The record may contain information collected from the student (or family); from teachers and other school staff; and from other sources outside the school, such as health care providers or testing companies. The record for a student may be stored in a central location (such as a school computer) for the convenience of anyone with authorized access and a need to obtain information; or there may be a separate paper or computer record maintained by each person who has contact with a student. Some parts of the record may even be stored outside the school, as happens when student health records are stored and maintained by the local public health service, or when state test scores are stored and maintained at the state education agency.

No matter where the student records are stored, procedures must be in place to ensure that access is granted only to authorized individuals and that only authorized individuals have the capacity to maintain (update) the records. Student records traditionally have been kept only at the school or district level. In recent years, however, many state education agencies have begun to collect individual student records. State-level records typically consist of data about student characteristics, program participation and assessment results––a subset of the data usually maintained at the school and district levels. The purposes of state-level databases are to promote continuous improvement in schools, plan for program changes to help students achieve high standards, distribute funds, and hold schools and districts accountable for student achievement. Most of the information included in state-level databases comes directly from schools and districts, and the information may be transmitted electronically among levels of the state’s school system.

In summary, a complete student record may be a single file, or it can be made up of several separate records, each with specific content or uses and each stored and maintained in a different way.

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