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Data for learning: Maximising the potential of your Student Management System

How to use your school’s Student Management Systems (SMSs) effectively so that learning is informed by accurate, rich information.

Student Management Systems (SMS)

Student Management Systems are software platforms for schools to manage their day-to-day operations. They also support assessment for learning by allowing the use of rich data to inform improvements in learning and teaching.

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 of Education.

teacher in a aclassroom, working on a laptop


SMS functions

Management of student data 
icon representing a school backpack

Functions include recording, analysis, and reporting of pastoral, achievement, and attendance information for students, teachers, whānau/caregivers, school leaders, and the Ministry of Education.

Assessment for learning 
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Data pinpoints students’ strengths so that both teachers and students can build on them. Using the data:

  • teachers can plan and modify teaching and learning programmes for individual students, groups of students, and classes
  • students can plan and manage the next steps in their learning.
Management of student's personal information
icon representing student and wider whānau

When enrolling students, input information:

  • from providers such as health professionals and social services
  • about specific learning needs and learning supports provided.

Use the data to provide supported starts and access to pastoral and wellbeing supports. Student information that is shared to support students needs to be accurate and kept up-to-date.

Administrative functions

Support for key administrative processes should be easily accessible, consistent, and fit for purpose. Systems must:

  • be mobile and allow teachers, students, or parents/caregivers to capture or update information easily (for example, data entry on a mobile device out in the playground)
  • allow for flexibility in scheduling and timetabling
  • support common practices and standards to enable the movement of, and access to, reliable information, including financial records, calendars, resources, and student activities.
Data hub

The SMS should act as a database and data exchange for other administrative and learning systems, for example, directory services, Single Sign On (SSO), early notification, parent portal, learning management systems (LMS), e-portfolios, library, and accounting packages.

Vendors of School Management Systems

Contacting vendors of School Management Systems  – The Ministry of Education website provides contact details for vendors of:

  • School Management Systems (SMS)
  • Learning Management Systems (LMS)
  • Early Notification systems (ENs)
Ministry of Education support and the Student Information Sharing Initiative  

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.

Using information to support achievement and school administration

There are four key ways data can be used to support a coherent and evidence-based approach to curriculum design, learner achievement, and administration.

1. Supporting each learner throughout their education
  • 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.
2. Evidence informing inquiry to improve teacher practice
  • Raising the standard and consistency of teaching practice through an inquiry focus is fundamental to ensuring success for all students.
  • Gathering, analysis, and sharing of achievement and pastoral data provides the evidence that informs effective inquiries.
3. Data-driven evidence is key to smart decision-making
  • Evaluating a range of data provides evidence that ensures smart decision-making around school organisation, activities, and interventions.
  • Comprehensive data analysis enables reliable decisions at the individual or class level as well as school-wide or across a team, or department.
  • Data can be analysed and used to inform your Kahui Āko / Community of Learning.
4. Data supporting school systems and administration

An SMS helps you record, organise, access, and analyse data efficiently for:

  • administrative data collection and management e.g. personal and personnel records
  • management of student activities e.g. sporting, cultural, extra-curricular, fees, and invoicing
  • management of school business e.g. lesson plans, resource booking, timetable, calendar, and payments
  • reporting to students, caregivers, and the community through a variety of channels
  • reporting to the Ministry of Education and other agencies
  • database and data exchange for other administrative and learning systems, for example, directory services , Single Sign On (SSO), early notification, parent portal, learning management systems (LMS) , e-portfolios, library, and accounting packages.

"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 & Halbert (2014, p.7)

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:

  • student information, which is easily accessible and updated regularly
  • recording targets and goals with students
  • information on vocational pathways, linked to student progress and achievement
  • identifying target students and providing appropriate support.

"An effective three-way learning partnership among student-school-community occurs when all parties are fully informed about achievements and progress."

– Education Review Office (2007, p. 18)

Five key principles to underpin the effective use of your data

1. The focus is on learning
  • Data is collected to serve learning, not just for administration or compliance.
  • Data facilitates smart decisions that directly or indirectly support better learning.
  • Data follows learners within, between, and beyond schools.
  • Data supports teachers’ inquiry processes through access to evidence. It facilitates a collaborative, coherent view within an evidence-based culture.
  • Data gathered is valid and sufficiently comprehensive so that progress and achievement can be evaluated
2. The data is shared and used
  • Students use their own achievement data to inform their learning.
  • Teacher PLD uses data explicitly to inform staff inquiries into their practice.
  • Leaders share school achievement and administrative data on a regular basis in a variety of forums and use that data to inform decisions.
3. Parents/caregivers and whānau are involved
  • The learner and their family/whānau have easy access to the data along with an understanding of what the information the data provides means.
  • Your school actively encourages learners and their families to access and consider achievement and wellbeing information. Data is used to support learning and progress conversations.
4. Data is robust and effectively managed
  • Data is easy to access on any device and is:
    • accurate
    • consistent
    • complete
    • timely
    • valid
  • Knowledge about how the SMS is set up and managed is distributed amongst a number of people and is considered in succession planning.
  • Student data is held centrally in the SMS so that it can be:
    • accessed
    • analysed
    • integrated with other directories or systems
    • used to automate processes and facilitate the flow of information between systems.
5. Professional support is provided and sustained
  • Everyone involved in the use of and access to data has ongoing professional learning, training, or guidance to support them. This includes:
    • the roles of the SMS and their importance
    • how to access, store, share and use data in safe, ethical and legal ways
    • how to select, record, analyse and interpret data
    • what to do next with the insights gained from the data.
  • Induction for staff and families who are new to the school is provided.
  • If your school changes its SMS, then everyone is given sufficient training on the new product.

The value of whānau/caregiver involvement

There is clear evidence that learner outcomes are improved when whānau engage in discussions related to their child’s learning. When teachers share good quality, relevant information about learning and 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:

  • really know each learner
  • understand learners’ strengths and challenges
  • set specific and relevant goals with learners and their whānau/caregivers.
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Student voice

"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. It also helps students know what their next steps are and how they can take them.

Sharing data

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:

  • develop a cohesive plan for ongoing sharing
  • consider the use of a variety of formats and communication opportunities
  • work with their communities to develop systems for sharing that meet everyone’s needs.

Student-led conferences

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.

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Building responsive relationships

"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 (2015 p.45)

To have a significant impact on student learning outcomes:

  • teachers must understand how they can use data to make changes that affect learning outcomes
  • leaders need to support changes in pedagogy
  • school processes and policies must support what is happening in the classroom.

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.

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Parent/whānau access through SMS portals enables a greater sense of ownership of data and shared responsibility for their children’s learning. However, if parents/whānau 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.

Questions to consider when sharing information with whānau/caregivers
  • Why use an SMS parent portal?
  • What information will you provide to parents/whānau?
  • When do you provide information?
  • How have you prepared parents/whānau for receiving the information?
  • Will parents/whānau understand the data and what it means for their child’s learning?
  • What opportunities are there for follow-up conversations with teachers, parents/whānau and learners?
  • Has the SMS parent portal increased the engagement of parents/caregivers?
  • If so, has it significantly impacted student grades or engagement in learning?
  • If not, how do you increase engagement?
  • How will you manage privacy issues such as access to student information for separated parents?

"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, p.4). 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

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  • Attendance Matters – Ministry of Education guidelines for implementing an effective attendance management plan.
  • Managing student attendance – Information on attendance requirements from the education.govt.nz website.
  • Understanding attendance – Useful information, checklists and insights for school leaders about attendance on the Educational Leaders website.
  • Attendance Services – Attendance Services combines the Non-Enrolled Truancy Service (NETS) and the District Truancy Service (DTS) into one integrated service to support schools and students to manage and improve attendance.

Collaborative networks such as Kahui Āko 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.

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 Kahui Āko, and use this to inform your discussions as you develop strategies to achieve student and teacher learning goals that are relevant to your community.

West Auckland schools collaborating

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 to make changes to practice. The results of these changes were reflected in subsequent NZCER Student Engagement data."

– Cherie Taylor-Patel, (2016)

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  • NZCER National surveys – provide useful data for school leaders to identify trends and implement strategies that support learners across the Community of Learning.
  • Communities of Learning: Guide for schools and kura – Appendix 1 of the Communities of Schools Privacy Protocol provides guidance and protocols in relation to information sharing and privacy of information associated with forming and operating a Community of Schools.
  • Community of schools: Tips and starters – Working together – Contains guidance on best practices for collaboration and how to approach setting the first achievement challenge.
  • Te Rito – helping learners succeed – The Ministry of Education is developing a national repository of learner data that enables the safe and secure transfer of information between schools and the sector. Te Rito was paused in 2021.

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.

Identify students at risk (socially, behaviourally, and academically) early and monitor their progress.

Ways you can collaborate with student data

  • Share information between schools about student achievement
  • Share information about students’ specific learning needs, approaches, interventions, and supports – including specific technologies and software they may use
  • Share student e-portfolios

Quality shared data can be used by the receiving school to plan and implement programmes appropriate for incoming students.

Agree on what data will 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.

NZ 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 to develop planning and reporting documents.

An SMS can support your school to 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.

  • School roll return guidelines – Data exported from an SMS is used by the Ministry of Education to fund and staff schools, to support policy analysis, to monitor the results of the New Zealand education system, and for national and international reporting.
  • Data submission to NZQA – There are two methods for data file submission of entries and results to NZQA – web entries and file submission directly from your SMS.

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.

Good management of data supports a coherent curriculum for all learners:

  • across and within learning areas
  • through transitions into schools, through schools, and beyond
  • to plan clear learning pathways and progression.

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.

a teacher in a school library, working on a laptop
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  • Coherence principle – A NZ Curriculum resource to support schools thinking about connections, transition, and pathways. Consistent information supports a common language of learning.

Data gathered about students might be factual personal information like contact details, or qualitative and quantitative evidence used for learning. Ensure the data recorded is high quality. The quality of 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, R. (2008). The student data backpack p. 144

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.

Data should be accessible

Accessible data is easy for anyone who needs it to find, obtain, use and understand.

  • Publish the data and its analysis – this will help everyone to understand why high-quality data is important to promote continuous improvement.
  • Ensure students can easily access their own data.
  • Ensure parents/caregivers/whānau can easily access relevant data about their children.
  • Have a process for students and whānau to identify and report/correct any errors.

Data should be accurate

Accurate data is correct and formatted to predefined standards. It is unambiguous and reflects reality.

  • Use automated data formats like date-pickers, drop-down lists or form fields that require validation of formatting.
  • Undertake audits of the data.
  • Be specific when entering data.
  • Always check and correct data – don’t pass along your errors and expect the next person to find and correct them.

Data should be complete

Missing data can skew analysis, which means that there is a risk of useful information or trends being missed.

  • Use exception reports to check for missing data.
  • Undertake random checks for data completeness.
  • Request that students or parents periodically check their data.
  • Use checklists to ensure that all data required has been entered.

Data should be consistent

The recorded data should be unambiguous, and the same regardless of who gathers it.

  • Provide moderation opportunities.
  • Ensure assessments are reliable.

Data should be timely

Timely data gathering allows sufficient time to undertake meaningful analysis that ensures relevant feedback that can inform further interventions.

  • Enter data as it comes to hand, and use data regularly as part of an ongoing inquiry cycle, rather than only in a one-time event such as report-writing.
  • Ensure target dates are reasonable and clearly communicated.
  • Aim to provide feedback soon after an assessment task.

Data should be valid and relevant

Valid and relevant data provides the right information to answer the question that is asked.

  • Ensure there is a clear match between the data collected and the intended primary use of the data.
  • Ensure assessments are valid.
  • Be ethical by using information with professionalism and integrity, for intended purposes only.
Data should be held 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 is more easily:

  • kept updated
  • analysed to investigate student achievement across different classes, subjects, or learning areas, and in a longitudinal way
  • integrated with other directories so as to provide automatic updates to users and groups held by the school’s network server, library database, or other on-premise or cloud services
  • used to automate processes such as triggering emails to students, parents/caregivers
  • kept secure
  • used to facilitate the flow of information such as reporting to the Ministry of Education or using Student Record Transfer (SRT).

Data is not valuable by itself. Data needs to be analysed to provide useful information which can then be acted upon.

Growing data literacy

"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."

– Report of the Professional Learning Advisory Group, (2014, p.14)

Data literacy means that people can:

  • formulate and answer questions using data as part of evidence-based thinking
  • use appropriate data, tools, and representations to support this thinking
  • interpret information from data
  • develop and evaluate data-based inferences and explanations
  • use data to solve real problems and communicate their solutions.

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.

Resources to assist with analysing data

"...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, p.2)

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. Professional development providers with expertise in data analysis can help you develop ways to interpret data useful to your context.

Tools to assist with data analysis
  • Assessment tool selector – A resource for teachers and schools to help them select the most appropriate assessment tool to suit their particular purpose.
  • Working with data – If your SMS’s built-in tools are not sufficient, data can be exported to a spreadsheet and analysed as outlined in Assessment Online.
  • Starpath Project Toolkit  – Provides a large number of resources to help with:
    • data collection and management
    • working with data.

What to look for when analysing data

It is essential that you are able to read and interpret data accurately so that you know where students are in their learning and are able to plan for optimum teaching and learning.

Questions you can answer by analysing your data
  • Changes for individuals or groups – Is there a marked change in whatever you are measuring over time and what might explain these?
  • Differences between individuals or groups – Are there differences between students or between groups of students and what might be causing these differences? Are there groups who are overly represented – or not represented at all?
  • Correlations – Are there connections between or among two or more sets of data? Correlations can sometimes point to important relationships you might not have expected.
  • Patterns – Are there patterns across the data that become apparent when you look at it through different lenses – for example – time of year, time of day, year group, ethnicity, curriculum area, age group, or other external factors?
  • Curiosities – Is there something that stands out as significantly interesting enough for you to develop a hunch and investigate further?

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.

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  • Reading and analysing data – This section of Assessment Online provides tools to help educators accurately read and interpret data.

There are a number of tools available for reporting data. Sharing student data from your SMS lists modules and systems compatible with each SMS.

electronic Attendance Register (eAR)

electronic Attendance Register is a tool that allows schools to record, analyse, and report attendance data in a consistent format.


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 the results of vision and hearing tests into the system. All schools must use ENROL.
SMSs typically enable schools to synchronise student records with ENROL.

Get Check NSN

Get Check NSN uses student data to connect to ENROL to retrieve a student’s National Student Number (NSN), or check that the NSN is correct. This is a function of your SMS and may be called something different in each SMS.

PaCT – upload from SMS

The Progress and Consistency Tool (PaCT) is a tool designed to help teachers make dependable judgments about students' achievement that can be used to track progress in reading, writing, and mathematics. Setting up PaCT and connecting it with your SMS is explained on the PaCT site.

Early Notification (EN)

Early Notification – messages about absences notifications about student absences are sent to parents/caregivers by text or email messaging.

Attendance Matters

Attendance Matters is a set of Ministry of Education guidelines for implementing an effective attendance management plan.

Student Record Transfer (SRT)

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 .

Identity Data Extract (IDE)

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).

Consider privacy when dealing with students and staff's personal data. The Privacy Act outlines 12 information privacy principles which all apply to data held by schools.

Security when dealing with students and staff's personal data is covered by Principle 5 of the Privacy Act – "Storage and security".

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.

Tips for improving data security

  • Provide PLD on what data security means and on your school’s policies and procedures that relate to data security.
  • Provide appropriately restricted levels of access to records.
  • Ensure strong passwords are used to access data.
  • Enforce timeouts after no activity.
  • Find out if your SMS logs all changes to data records and highlights any suspicious activity. Monitor these logs if possible.
  • Ensure software patches are up to date.
  • Beware of the potential for data leaks through spreadsheets of exported data.
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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 types of records that a school must keep according to the Public Records Act 2005 .

Principles of effective data usage

As data has become increasingly digitised, some key challenges have arisen.

  • Challenge 1 – how to use data effectively as a key part of the inquiry process to raise student achievement and make evidence-informed decisions?
  • Challenge 2 – how to move from information being difficult to share or underused towards information that is aggregated, useful for everyone, and relevant throughout a student’s school life?
  • Challenge 3 – how to reduce the administration of collection, analysis, and sharing of data while also making sure the data is accurate, up-to-date, and relevant?

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.

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:

  • observations
  • exemplars of work
  • portfolios
  • teacher and student reflections
  • surveys
  • demographics
  • details about student attendance
  • behaviour and engagement.

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.

"...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)

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Using evidence holistically leads to informed decision-making across the classroom, within a school, and across a Kahui Āko. When used with an inquiry mindset, evidence opens up conversations about:

  • why we have the outcomes we have
  • what we can learn about what we do well
  • how we might best focus our efforts, strategies and resources on improving teaching and learning.

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 Kahui Āko level.

Linking multiple sources to inform inquiry

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:

  • what the attendance data suggests
  • how you can engage with parents/whānau to learn more about your students
  • what role student voice plays.

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. Collate evidence from multiple sources in order to draw a full, rich picture of teaching and learning to:

  • see what students are capable of
  • identify gaps
  • choose strategies that are most likely to have a positive impact on student achievement.

"...use data to make the invisible visible, revealing strengths and needs which are easily concealed..."

– Schmoker (1999 cited in Ministry of Education, Ontario 2014, p. 9)

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Identifying learner needs

Evidence is integral to a teaching as inquiry cycle. Evidence can be used to:

  • identify an area of need
  • monitor progress toward a chosen goal
  • reflect on whether to maintain, adapt or change teaching and learning strategies
  • evaluate the impact of the teaching inquiry.

When identifying learner needs, teachers work alongside their students to gather 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.

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  • Target or goal setting – Section of Assessment Online that deals with setting and achieving personal and school-wide goals.
  • Effective feedback – Section of Assessment Online that provides guidance on how to provide effective feedback.

Learning analytics

Learning analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs (Ferguson, 2012 ).

Learning analytics involves the analysis of large data sets, which you can access from your SMS or LMS.

It is most commonly used by teachers to identify learning difficulties and opportunities for learning support and curriculum improvement. 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.

Tawhai School principal, Matt Skilton says that for strategic planning, having access to an SMS on data and analysis is vital. Matt explains how they use the data to work out the "students in need or the gaps we want to plug, or the accelerated areas we need to really push for".

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.

Nayland College principal, Daniel Wilson discusses the three ways they are using KAMAR to track and monitor student progress and achievement throughout the school.

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School leaders, Boards of Trustees, and Kahui Āko can use data to ensure your strategic plans are focused, evidence-based, and targeted to actual rather than perceived need. For example, assessment data, pastoral and engagement data, and 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.

"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, & Fung (2007), Teacher professional learning and development, p. xxxv

Steps for raising student achievement

Schools that successfully raise student achievement take these steps:

  • dig deeply into data collated from multiple sources and ask questions of the data to identify gaps such as a group of priority learners and/or a particular learning area focus
  • use data to allocate resourcing, including professional learning and development
  • engage with whānau, students and teachers to build a full picture of target learners and use this information alongside data to identify the strategies that are most likely to have a positive impact
  • take action by implementing targeted teaching and learning strategies – data is used to monitor progress with students, teachers, and whānau throughout
  • evaluate the strategies based on data to determine success and identify next steps.

ERO: Raising student achievement through targeted actions (December, 2015)

When planning for transitions planning between schools and out-of-school towards further education, it may be useful to consider longitudinal data. Use this data to identify existing patterns and support proactive strategic planning for your school and Kāhui Ako.

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  • Evidence-driven strategic planning – Assessment Online provides information and tools to help take a school-wide approach to evidence-driven strategic planning.
  • Effective school evaluation – This resource from 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.

Filter by: Primary Secondary

Sharing information and strategies through your SMS

Sharing information and strategies through your SMS

Nayland College principal, Daniel Wilson explains how they use their SMS to support student learning.

Student Record Transfer – Efficient data sharing between schools

Student Record Transfer – Efficient data sharing between schools

Nayland College principal, Daniel Wilson describes how the Student Achievement Function process helped them identify areas that they can improve, particularly around student record transfer to enable a better transition process for new students.

SMS – Facilitating teacher inquiry

SMS – Facilitating teacher inquiry

Principal, Michael Malins shares how they use their SMS to document teacher inquiries. 

SMS – Informing behaviour management strategies

SMS – Informing behaviour management strategies

Tawhai School principal, Matt Skilton explains how they use the Pastoral Care tool on MUSAC Edge to improve behaviour management. 

SMS – Informing strategic planning

SMS – Informing strategic planning

Tawhai School principal, Matt Skilton how they analyse the data in their SMS for strategic planning.

SMS – Supporting learner pathways

SMS – Supporting learner pathways

Nayland College principal, Daniel Wilson discusses the three ways that they are using KMAR to track and monitor student progress and achievement throughout the school.

SMS – Connecting parents, students, and teachers

SMS – Connecting parents, students, and teachers

Michael Malins, Konini School principal, talks about the app they use within eTap to record children's progress and achievement challenges being met and engage parents and students in learning.

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Key resources

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.

Assessment Online
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.

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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.

Making informed decisions

Using evidence in the classroom for professional learning  (2010)
Professor Helen Timperley’s report focused on using evidence to inform teaching and learning.

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Effective school evaluation  (2016)
This guide, developed by ERO, to using internal evaluation for improvement purposes is a companion to School evaluation indicators: Effective practice for improvement and learner success. The resource describes what effective internal evaluation is, what it involves, and how to go about it in ways that will enhance educational outcomes for students.

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Rukuhia Rarangahia
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. This paper was commissioned by the Ministry of Education with the express task of presenting a Māori medium assessment position.

Supporting learner pathways

Collection and Use of Assessment Information: Good Practice in Primary Schools

Reporting student achievement information to the community (p.22) is 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.

Educationally powerful connections with parents and whānau

Educationally powerful connections with parents/whānau

ERO evaluation of how well 256 schools worked with parents and whānau to respond to students at risk of underachievement.

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Managing student attendance
Information on attendance requirements from the education.govt.nz website.

Understanding attendance
Information, checklists and insights for school leaders about attendance on the Educational Leaders website.

Data management

Using Data: Transforming potential into practice  (2011)
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."

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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.

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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 Act
Netsafe provides general digital privacy guidance.

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Communities of schools privacy protocols  
The Appendix of this publication provides a privacy protocol that can be used by both Communities of Learning and individual schools.

SMS in New Zealand 

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Contacting vendors of School Management Systems
There are a number of SMS products available in New Zealand, including those listed on this page.