A guide to maximising the potential of your Student Management System (SMS).
This guide offers schools starting points for the effective management and use of data. It focuses on using Student Management Systems (SMSs) effectively so that learning is informed by accurate, rich information.
Student Management Systems are software platforms designed to enable schools to manage their day-to-day operations and maintain, analyse, and publish data about students’ achievement and wellbeing.
An SMS is a valuable tool to ensure everyone is informed and enabled to support students’ continuing achievement and progress. This includes: learners and their whānau, educators, school leaders, and the Ministry.
In New Zealand there are various SMSs which offer a rich variety of functionalities.
There are four key ways data can be used to support a coherent and evidence-based approach to curriculum design, learner achievement, and administration.
Readily available data can be used for immediate feedback to students, teachers, and whānau/caregivers. Data supports teachers and school leaders as they reflect, prioritise, and plan to support each learner throughout their education. Students should be able to access the information they need about themselves and their lifelong education journey.
Schools can support learners best when information about learning, assessment, and wellbeing is managed and shared appropriately across a community.
An SMS is an important tool for storing, managing, accessing, and analysing data. Good management of data supports a coherent curriculum for all learners:
Raising the standard and consistency of teaching practice through an inquiry focus is fundamental to ensuring success for all students.
The gathering, analysis, and sharing of achievement and pastoral data provides the evidence that informs effective inquiries.
Evaluating a range of data provides evidence that ensures smart decision-making around school organisation, activities, and interventions.
Comprehensive data analysis enables reliable decisions:
Principal, Michael Malins describes how he set up their SMS for teachers to document their teacher inquiries. Easily accessible up-to-date student data informs the inquiry and its progress.
“Everyone will have an opinion about what is going on for learners – what we need is to make sure that we have rich sources of evidence to back up our opinions.”
Timperly, Kaser, and Halbert (2014)
An SMS can help schools record, organise, access, and analyse data efficiently for:
As data has become increasingly digitised, some key challenges have arisen.
To address these challenges and make the most of the opportunities now available, consider what you would expect to see if your data is being used to its best potential?
Te Rito (Student Information Sharing) is a programme being implemented by the Ministry of Education. Over time Te Rito will allow increasing levels of information about learners to be shared safely and securely as learners move through their education.
This section outlines useful approaches when deciding what information to gather in your SMS and how accurate data provides the evidence needed to support effective decision making.
In order to make informed decisions, use your SMS to gather more than just quantitative assessment data. Qualitative evidence helps to build a more complete picture of the student.
Consider drawing data from:
“...evidence related to students is something that informs teaching and learning, rather than being seen as a reflection of the capability of individual students that is most useful for sorting, labelling and credentialing.”
Timperley (2010), p.2
Aim to link assessment tools such as e-asTTle, PATs, and STAR to your SMS to collate and analyse data in one place. When schools integrate evidence they are able to develop a full picture of a student’s capabilities and areas for improvement. This evidence can engage students and their whānau in conversations about their learning, and with teachers about their practice.
Using evidence holistically leads to informed decision making across many levels – in the classroom, within a school, and across a Community of Learning. When used with an inquiry mindset, evidence opens up conversations about:
Use data in the inquiry process
Analysis drawn from data should be supported by professional judgement, engaging with students, caregivers and whānau, and by research. Data should be used collaboratively by stakeholders as part of an inquiry process at a class, whole school and/or Community of Learning level.
“...use data to make the invisible visible, revealing strengths and needs which are easily concealed...”
Schmoker (1999), Using Data: Transforming Potential into Practice, p. 9
It is important to link evidence from multiple sources in order to develop a full picture of a student’s learning and a teacher’s practice. For example, how might your school build on assessment data to tell the story of the student who sits behind the data?
You might consider:
Classroom teachers can make use of evidence in order to identify strengths and areas for improvement both for their students as well as for their own practice. Evidence should be collated from multiple sources in order to draw a full, rich picture of teaching and learning: to see what students are capable of, to identify gaps and to choose strategies that are most likely to have a positive impact on student achievement.
Evidence is integral to a teaching as inquiry cycle by supporting the inquiry. Evidence can be used to:
When identifying learner needs, it is important that teachers work alongside their students with their evidence. Learning is powerful when students can identify where they are currently at, where they need to go and what their next steps for learning are. In this way, evidence is used to personalise learning and to provide effective, targeted feedback and feedforward.
“We need communities within and across schools that work collaboratively to diagnose what teachers need to do, plan programmes and teaching interventions and evaluate the success of these”
John Hattie (2015), What works best in education: The politics of collaborative expertise
Promoting collaboration that is purposeful and evidence-driven is a feature of education systems that show sustained improvement. However, Timperley et al (2014) caution that “inquiry is difficult for individual teachers to do in isolation from their colleagues or from leaders”.
In supporting this concept, Hattie (2015) insists we must stop allowing teachers to work alone and instead shift to a professional effort that emphasises collaboration. Honest conversations around what the data is telling us are becoming increasingly important in driving meaningful changes in teacher practices.
Learning analytics is an emerging technology designed to automatically gather, analyse, and aggregate a broad range of evidence with the aim of personalising the learning experience for an individual student. Students can set their own learning goals and teachers can identify strengths and gaps for both individuals and priority groups. Additionally, teachers can make evidence-based predictions and therefore make informed decisions about strategies that are most likely to improve achievement. These technologies are likely to continue to increase in their availability and impact.
Part of building the story of the student who sits behind the data is to use the SMS to collect pastoral care data. Having good pastoral care data enables the school to be informed about students and to build better relationships.
Group and school-wide trends in pastoral data provide important evidence when designing and monitoring strategies and interventions designed to promote student wellbeing.
Collecting student voice to sit alongside pastoral care data may be particularly powerful.
Matt Skilton, principal Tawhai School, explains how they use the pastoral care tool in their SMS to identify behaviour issues in the playground and the classrooms. From analysis of the data, they are able to develop positive interventions and monitor their impact.
School leaders, Boards of Trustees and Communities of Learning can use data to ensure their strategic plans are focused, evidence-based, and targeted to actual rather than perceived need. For example, assessment data, pastoral and engagement data, student and whānau voice can be combined to inform decision making. Resources can then be targeted to support teaching and learning strategies that result in improved student achievement.
Matt Skilton, principal Tawhai School, explains how they use their SMS to analyse data and set targets based on student achievement results. Progress in relation to planned interventions is closely monitored. Their SMS provides easy access, greater accuracy, and ease of reporting.
"Features of professional learning … that were associated with sustained student outcomes included … the skills to collect relevant evidence and use it to inquire into the impact of teaching on student learning"
Timperly, Wilson, Barrar, and Fung (2007), Teacher professional learning and development
The Ministry of Education and the Education Review Office suggest schools that successfully raise student achievement take the following steps:
When planning for transitions planning between schools and out of school towards further education, it may be useful to consider longitudinal data. This data may be used to identify existing patterns and support proactive strategic planning. This type of evidence may well benefit a Community of Learning.
This section offers guidance on using data to support students as they move through school, between schools, and beyond school.
Daniel Wilson, principal Nayland College, describes how they use their SMS to track and monitor student progress and achievement throughout the school. This includes providing a central repository for:
“Good quality information will provide the basis for communities, families/whānau and parents/caregivers to engage and collaborate with schools and kura and with other local stakeholders to support the achievement of their students.”
Education Counts – Public Achievement Information (PAI)
“An effective three‑way learning partnership among student-school-community occurs when all parties are fully informed about achievements and progress.”
Education Review Office
Michael Malins, principal Blockhouse Bay Intermediate, explains the importance of having an easy-to-use child-centric interface for sharing information with parents and students.
The data collected through the SMS has the potential to provide a holistic picture of a student’s progress from primary school through to yr13. Information could include academic goals and achievements, effort, pastoral information, and extracurricular participation and achievement. A profile could be built up of each student from which schools can identify trends to support students and their whānau/caregivers in their learning.
There is clear evidence that learner outcomes are improved when whānau are invited to engage in discussions related to their child’s learning. When teachers share good quality, relevant information about progress with whānau/caregivers and truly listen to what whānau/caregivers tell them about their children, everyone can be involved with the learner in supporting their next steps.
Summative assessment data provides valuable snapshots of progress, which are used most effectively alongside formative assessment and professional observations of a student’s progress in class. Additionally, information from home provides a holistic picture and allows teachers to:
“Self- reporting is the most powerful indicator of student success in learning. Effective reporting systems will be ones where ‘student voice’ is an integral part of the reporting process.”
Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York, NY: Routledge
Learners must be part of the conversation. Sharing data with students empowers them and helps them to understand what their strengths are. Recognising what they need to improve is integral to learners making changes to the way that they learn, knowing what their next steps are and how they can take them.
The information we share about a student’s learning will only make a significant impact on learning outcomes when the reflection and evaluation of progress is purposeful and ongoing. It is important that schools:
Traditional parent-teacher meetings have undergone a transformation in recent years with many schools remodelling ways of reporting on a student’s progress.
Student-led conferences give ownership of the conversation to the learner. Student learning goals and achievements stored in your SMS can be easily accessed during and after the conference providing whānau/caregivers with ongoing up-to-date information. The SMS may also be used as a tool to schedule these conferences.
“Leaders at schools with the best qualities of educationally powerful connections and relationships were supporting a whole-school focus on improving relationships with parents/caregivers and whānau.”
Education Review Office
To have a significant impact on student learning outcomes:
Build relationships with the local community
Forming culturally responsive relationships with the local community is a key element to engaging whānau/caregivers in their children’s learning.
The Te Kotahitanga project focuses on improving educational achievement of Māori students in mainstream schools. Sharing information and having ongoing conversations with students, whānau/caregivers, and other teachers to identify learning pathways are key to its success.
He Kākano is a strategic school-based professional learning programme with an explicit focus on improving culturally responsive leadership and teacher practices to ensure Māori learners enjoy educational success as Māori. There has to be a holistic approach to looking at our learners, “behind every piece of data there is a child. Engaging more effectively with family and whānau helps to fill in the missing parts of the story for each student. It gives meaning to the data we are collecting.”
The Mutukaroa programme fosters the active engagement of parents and whānau in learning partnerships. It provides them with the tools and knowledge necessary to support the development of core skills in their children. Together with effective teaching, strategic use of data, and ongoing collaboration with parents it has made a real difference to student achievement in the school.
Providing parents/caregivers with access to their children’s data through SMS parent portals enables them to have a greater sense of ownership of the data and shared responsibility for their children’s learning. However, if parents/caregivers don’t have a clear understanding of what the information means in practice then parent portals will not meet their true potential for helping families support student learning.
A learning journey – A parent’s perspective – A parent reflects on how better understanding of using assessment data has led to improvements in her daughter’s writing.
“Every day a student is not at school is a day they are not learning. Over time, patterns of non-attendance can place students at risk of poor achievement and early drop-out, thus compromising outcomes in life across a range of social and economic measures.”
Schooling Analysis Unit, Ministry of Education (2015), Attendance in New Zealand Schools
Early engagement with whānau/caregivers about attendance is important for learning outcomes. Building good relationships with the whole community and providing practical strategies to encourage regular attendance at school is essential.
“To better support those staff working hard to help at-risk students succeed at school, we looked closely at the data around those who had struggled and become significantly disengaged. This analysis identified a series of thresholds in particular pastoral and progress data such as attendance, pastoral records, stand-downs and report grades, that provided an accurate predictor of future disengagement. This matrix was then used to monitor progress. Where this process identified students reaching the data 'trigger-points', this information was used proactively to address concerns around the identified students before these escalated. These trigger points were gender specific.”
Charles Newton, ex principal
Collaborative networks such as IES Communities of Learning have a collective responsibility for the learning of all students and the teaching of all teachers. Sharing data between schools in collaborative networks enables leaders and teachers to use data to inform practice, identify learner needs, and set goals both for the community of schools as well as for individual schools.
Sharing data across 31 Auckland schools enables them to identify trends and develop common strategies to increase performance across the whole cluster. They have built teacher capacity and improved learner outcomes.
“When we looked at the e-AsTTle data of schools where boys were engaged and doing well, we wanted to understand more about what our best performing schools and teachers were doing. Teachers from these schools presented their learning to the network about strategies they had used to engage boys effectively. This kind of information sharing between schools encouraged other schools make changes to practice. The results of these changes were reflected in subsequent NZCER Student Engagement data.”
Cherie Taylor-Patel, (2016)
Use evidence-based data to inform discussions
It is important to consider what counts as evidence of learning improvement and what information needs to be shared.
Discuss what appropriate evidence-based data is important for your school, and use this to inform you discussions as you develop strategies to achieve student and teacher learning goals which are relevant to your community.
Transitioning between schools can be a stressful time for students and a time when engagement in learning declines. While there are many suggested reasons for this dip one element is a change in the learning environment. It is important that students at risk (socially, behaviourally, and academically) are identified early and monitored as they progress through schools and from one section of the school to another. Liaison between schools about learning programmes and information shared between schools about student achievement and learning experience can be used by the receiving school to plan and implement learning programmes that are at an appropriate level for the incoming students.
Schools should agree on what data should be shared and be confident that the method of collecting is robust. It is important that all information transferred about individual students is read and analysed sensitively by new schools, then shared effectively to tailor learning to students’ needs from the start.
“The public availability of a range of information is intended to build understanding of the progress and achievement of students at all levels of the education system and to focus attention on where there is limited progress or barriers to achievement.”
Education Counts – Public Achievement Information
Schools are required to record and share some achievement information with the Ministry of Education to support national planning and resourcing. How your school uses your data to report in your annual plans and variance statements is important. Consider whether the actions you take help make the improvements you are seeking. The Ministry of Education provides school planning and reporting guidelines and resources to support your school/kura develop planning and reporting documents.
An SMS can support your school adhere to the National Administration Guidelines and reporting schedules. Data is collected from all schools using SMS for other reasons such as funding allocations and to inform national policies:
Data indicates the health of education
It is important that principals and teachers understand why data is collected and how it can inform national policy. Assessment data reported by schools is used as an indicator of the “health” of education. Assessments are reflective of progress against The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa. As gaps are identified, goals can be set to build capability and improve the implementation of the national curriculum at all levels.
The Youth Guarantee Achievement 2013-17 Programme or (ART – Achievement. Retention. Transitions) aims to work in partnership with schools to identify students at risk of not achieving and to generate higher levels of NCEA Level 2 achievement. This is done through identifying trends from data, conversations with students, their teachers, parents/whanau, tracking of progress, mentoring, and tailored interventions to support students where help is needed.
To make effective decisions about learning and planning, we need to be able to access and understand dependable information that is accurate and relevant to the purpose. This section offers guidance on how to think about managing data so you can make the best use of it within an evidence-informed decision making cycle .
Data gathered about students might be factual personal information like contact details or qualitative or quantitative evidence used for learning. Whatever data is recorded, it is important to ensure the data is of high quality. The quality of the data collected leads directly to the quality of the analysis that can be derived.
“The initial point of data collection is the single most influential moment to ensure data quality, yet it typically receives the least attention”
Raymond (2008), The student data backpack
Ensuring data quality is everybody’s responsibility but is most critical at the point the data is entered. It is very unlikely that the data will be revised once it has been entered (or omitted). Teachers, whānau, students, and administrators should have a common understanding of the importance of data quality and follow some simple guidelines to help ensure it is maintained:
Accessible data is easy for anyone who needs it to find, obtain, use and understand.
Accurate data is correct and formatted to predefined standards. It is unambiguous and reflects reality.
Bad data can be worse than no data at all
Missing data can skew analysis, which means that there is risk of useful information or trends being missed.
The data recorded should be unambiguous, and the same regardless of who gathers it.
Timely data gathering allows sufficient time to undertake meaningful analysis that ensures relevant feedback that can inform further interventions.
Valid and relevant data provides the right information to answer the question that is asked.
Data is not valuable by itself. Data needs to be analysed to provide useful information which can then be acted upon.
“Teachers and leaders need to continually acquire technical skills. These skills are fundamental to teaching and learning. Examples include how to undertake, analyse and use running records in primary schools and kura and moderation of assessment in secondary schools and wharekura.”
PLD Advisory Group Report, (2014)
Data literacy means that people can:
Teachers, parents/caregivers, and students need to grow their data literacy as a school continues to develop a culture of Teaching as Inquiry as outlined in The New Zealand Curriculum.
“..educators have ‘reams’ of data that may not be used productively. In fact, as Michael Fullan (cited in Earl and Katz, 2006) has suggested, data can potentially lead to overload and confusion. So how can educational leaders find a line through the evidence on data gathering and analysis that will support our professional practice and help us take full advantage of the potential of using data?”
Using data: Transforming potential into practice, (2014)
Analysing data requires the development of particular skills in the use of a range of statistical tools and methodologies.
Student Management Systems and assessment tools commonly have built-in tools for analysing data, and professional development providers with expertise in data analysis can be useful to help you develop ways to interpret data useful to your context.
It is essential that educators are able to read and interpret data accurately, so that they know where students are in their learning and are able to plan for optimum teaching and learning.
Bias occurs when data is used in alignment with a particular viewpoint or perception. Beware of bias when deciding what data to collect and when analysing data.
There are a number of tools available for managing data.
ENROL is a register of student enrolments. It was designed to ensure that accurate records of enrolments were maintained and able to be updated as students moved between schools. It is used to assign each student a unique National Student Number. It lets you update enrolments as students enrol, change schools, or leave the school system. Vision and hearing technicians also use ENROL to enter results of vision and hearing tests into the system. All schools must use ENROL.
SMSs typically enable schools to synchronise student records with ENROL.
SRT enables some specific student data from SMS systems to be exported from a student’s old school to be imported to a student’s new school. The data includes the ENROL record along with demographics (for example, ethnicity, year level), caregiver details, medical professionals, dental professionals, summary attendance information, and assessment data.
The SRT system involves temporary storage of encrypted student data on a Ministry of Education server. The actual transfer and retrieving of any student data can only be carried out by the source and destination schools with the Ministry acting as a type of Post Office.
SRT will eventually be replaced by the Ministry's Te Rito programme .
Nayland College principal Daniel Wilson explains, receiving data from feeder schools early in Year 9 enables them to identify target students and put interventions in place that are successful for those students.
Electronic Attendance Register
is a tool that allows schools to record, analyse, and report attendance data in a consistent format.
allows notifications about student absences to be sent to parents/caregivers by text or email messaging.
Identity Data Extract
is a function of an SMS that allows information about students and teachers to be exported from the SMS so that it can be imported into a different system such as the Progress and Consistency tool (PaCT).
Every Day Matters is a Ministry initiative to provide schools with tailored reports, infographics, and insights relating to attendance data. It can help better understand students’ attendance, how it compares to other similar schools, and how attendance impacts on student achievement.
It is important to consider privacy when dealing with students’ and staff personal data.
The Privacy Act outlines 12 information privacy principles which all apply to data held by schools:
It is important to consider security when dealing with students’ and staff personal data. This is covered by Principle 5 of the Privacy Act
Security is a balance between usability, affordability and complexity. Overly secure systems become unusable and too complex for less technical users in a school environment.
Weak links in the security chain can include school staff sharing passwords with colleagues and students, allowing students to use devices that are logged into restricted systems and not having a passcode on mobile devices.
The School Records Retention/Disposal Information Pack gives advice to schools on their legal obligations to retain, store, and dispose of school records.
The pack demonstrates how to deal with the six types of records that a school must keep according to the Public Records Act 2005 :
Student management systems (SMS) are one of the key tools used to support the collection, analysis, and communication of data. This section describes the common functionalities in most SMSs. It offers a starting point to help schools review, select, and maximise their SMS to support learning.
Relevant information should follow a student through their educational journey, building the ability for longitudinal student information to be accessed and used. Schools should be able to report to students, caregivers, and the community through a variety of channels but access to student information must be available only to the appropriate people.
There are a number of SMS products available in New Zealand, including those listed on the contacting vendors of School Management Systems page.
There are many aspects that need to be considered when evaluating SMS including:
Student Management Systems recommended feature sets – When evaluating an SMS, specific features could be examined. Ensure that any SMS you are considering is capable of at least the “essential elements” list on this document.
“Establish a school-wide policy that all achievement data is stored on the SMS. Too often we found many pockets of data around the school, none of which could be accessed to create a comprehensive academic profile for any given student. Departing staff often means departing data too.”
Handy Hints for managing school data – Starpath
Hold student data centrally
Data about students should be held centrally rather than dispersed across multiple sources such as paper records, electronic documents, or spreadsheets held by individual teachers.
Data stored centrally can be more easily:
Professional learning around the use of your SMS is essential. It might encompass:
SMS vendors usually provide training materials and opportunities along with a support desk to handle queries. There are typically additional costs involved for training. Joining a user group can be a beneficial way to work with people in others schools using the same SMS. Some SMS vendors offer conferences, newsletters, and other ways to connect and learn.
As staff, students and parents/whānau enrol in a new school they should be provided appropriate guidance on how to access and use its SMS.
Contacting vendors of School Management Systems
There are a number of SMS products available in New Zealand, including those listed on this page.
Student Management Systems recommended feature sets
List of common SMS features. Ensure that any SMS you are considering is capable of at least the “essential elements”.
Te Rito (Student Information Sharing)
Te Rito (formerly known as the Student Information Sharing Initiative – SISI). It is a way for important information about New Zealand learners to be securely stored and shared. It involves the development of a national repository of learner data that enables the safe and secure transfer of information between schools and the sector.
Helps school leaders and teachers in gathering, analysing, interpreting, and using information about students' progress and achievement. The emphasis is on the formative use of assessment to improve learning and teaching.
A framework for transforming learning in schools: Innovation and the spiral of inquiry
The spiral of inquiry framework supports schools to take an evidence-based approach to improving professional practice.
Using evidence in the classroom for professional learning
Professor Helen Timperley’s report focused on using evidence to inform teaching and learning.
Effective school evaluation
This resource from the Education Review Office (ERO) describes what effective internal evaluation is, what it involves, and how to go about it in ways that will enhance educational outcomes for students.
Invites us to delve into and seek out the essence and elements of aromatawai to help guide our decision-making about learning and teaching for Māori ākonga in Māori medium contexts.
Reporting student achievement information to the community
Part of the report The Collection and Use of Assessment Information: Good Practice in Primary Schools (June 2007) in which ERO evaluated the collection and use of assessment information in schools in 2006.
ERO evaluation of how well 256 schools worked with parents and whānau to respond to students at risk of underachievement.
Managing student attendance
Information on attendance requirements from the education.govt.nz website.
Information, checklists and insights for school leaders about attendance on the Educational Leaders website.
Using Data: Transforming Potential into Practice
This article, by the Canadian Ministry of Education is reviewed as being “extremely readable, gives useful definitions, and is full of practical ideas for using data in your school. It provides excellent material to use with staff.”
Starpath Project Toolkit
Starpath is an evidence-based whole school intervention focused on transforming educational outcomes for New Zealand students. The project has concentrated on Māori, Pasifika and low income students who are under-represented in degree level study. It provides a large number of resources from the University of Auckland to help with data collection and management and working with data.
Privacy in schools: A guide to the Privacy Act for principals, teachers and boards of trustees
Outlines how the Privacy Act principles are applied to schools, including for keeping electronic student records.
Privacy and schools
Netsafe provides general digital privacy guidance.
Communities of Schools Privacy Protocols
The Appendix of this publication provides a Privacy Protocol that can be used by both Communities of Learning as well as by individual schools.
Contacting vendors of School Management Systems
There are a number of SMS products available in New Zealand, including those listed on this page.
Student Management Systems recommended feature sets
List of common SMS features. Ensure that any SMS you are considering is capable of at least the “essential elements”.
Decision-making guides, how-to guides, and checklists
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