How to use your school’s Student Management Systems (SMSs) effectively so that learning is informed by accurate, rich information.
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.
Functions include recording, analysis, and reporting of pastoral, achievement, and attendance information for students, teachers, whānau/caregivers, school leaders, and the Ministry of Education.
Data pinpoints students’ strengths so that both teachers and students can build on them. Using the data:
When enrolling students, input information:
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.
Support for key administrative processes should be easily accessible, consistent, and fit for purpose. Systems must:
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.
Contacting vendors of School Management Systems – The Ministry of Education website provides contact details for vendors of:
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.
There are four key ways data can be used to support a coherent and evidence-based approach to curriculum design, learner achievement, and administration.
An SMS helps you record, organise, access, and analyse data efficiently for:
"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."
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:
"An effective three-way learning partnership among student-school-community occurs when all parties are fully informed about achievements and progress."
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:
"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."
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.
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:
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."
To have a significant impact on student learning outcomes:
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.
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.
"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."
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 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."
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.
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.
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:
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.
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"
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.
Missing data can skew analysis, which means that there is a risk of useful information or trends being missed.
The recorded data 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 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:
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."
– Report of the Professional Learning Advisory Group, (2014, p.14)
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?"
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.
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.
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 reporting data. Sharing student data from your SMS lists modules and systems compatible with each SMS.
electronic Attendance Register is a tool that allows schools to record, analyse, and report attendance data in a consistent format.
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 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.
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 – messages about absences notifications about student absences are sent to parents/caregivers by text or email messaging.
Attendance Matters is a set of Ministry of Education guidelines for implementing an effective attendance management plan.
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 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.
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 .
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.
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:
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."
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:
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.
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. Collate evidence from multiple sources in order to draw a full, rich picture of teaching and learning to:
"...use data to make the invisible visible, revealing strengths and needs which are easily concealed..."
Evidence is integral to a teaching as inquiry cycle. Evidence can be used to:
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.
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.
Nayland College principal, Daniel Wilson discusses the three ways they are using KAMAR to track and monitor student progress and achievement throughout the school.
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"
Schools that successfully raise student achievement take these steps:
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.
Nayland College principal, Daniel Wilson explains how they use their SMS to support student learning.
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.
Principal, Michael Malins shares how they use their SMS to document teacher inquiries.
Tawhai School principal, Matt Skilton explains how they use the Pastoral Care tool on MUSAC Edge to improve behaviour management.
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.
Tawhai School principal, Matt Skilton how they analyse the data in their SMS for strategic planning.
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.
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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 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.
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.
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.
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 and 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”.