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Making the best use of your student data

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.

Daniel Wilson

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.

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.

An SMS is an important tool for storing, managing, accessing, and analysing data. 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.
More information »
  • Coherence – A NZ Curriculum resource to support schools thinking about connections, transition, and pathways. Consistent information can support a common language of learning.


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.
The 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
  • across a team, syndicate, or department
  • School-wide, across a Community of Learning.

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.

More information »

“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)


4. Data supporting school systems and administration

An SMS can help schools 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 and other agencies
  • database and data exchange for other administrative and learning systems e.g. directory services, Single Sign On (SSO), early notification, parent portal, learning management systems (LMS) , e-portfolios, library, and accounting packages.

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 to 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?



Five key principles to underpin 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 other 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 – see NAG 1 .
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:
    • analysed
    • integrated with other directories or systems
    • used to automate processes and to 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 on-going 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.

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.

Types of evidence

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.
More information »



Linking assessment tools with an SMS

“...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.

More information »

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:

  • 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.

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.


Linking multiple sources to inform inquiry

“...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:

  • What does attendance data suggest?
  • How you can engage with parents/whānau to learn more about your students?
  • What role does student voice play?

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.

More information »



Identifying learner needs

Teachers and social media

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

  • identify an area of need
  • monitor progress towards 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, 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.

More information »
  • Target setting – Section of Assessment Online dealing with setting and achieving personal and school-wide goals.
  • Effective feedback – Section of Assessment Online provides guidance on how to provide effective feedback.



Collaborative inquiry

“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

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.

More information »

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.

More information »

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



Steps for raising student achievement

The Ministry of Education and the Education Review Office suggest schools that successfully raise student achievement take the following steps:

  1. 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.
  2. Use data to allocate resourcing, including professional learning and development.
  3. 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.
  4. Take action by implementing targeted teaching and learning strategies. Data is used to monitor progress with students, teachers, and whānau throughout.
  5. Evaluate the strategies based on data to determine success and identify next 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.

More information »
  • Evidence-driven strategic planning – Section of 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.

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:

  • 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.

“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 value of data for informing learning

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. 


The value of whānau/caregiver involvement

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:

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



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, knowing 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.



Parent-teacher conferences

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.

More information »



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

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.

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.

More information »

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.

Questions to consider when sharing information with whānau/caregivers

  • Why use an SMS parent portal?
  • What information will you provide to parents/caregivers?
  • When do you provide information?
  • How have you prepared parents/caregivers for receiving the information?
  • Will parents/caregivers understand the data and what it means for their child’s learning?
  • What opportunities are there for follow up conversations with teachers, parents/caregivers and learners?
  • Has the SMS parent portal increased 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?
More information »

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.

Importance of attendance data for 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.”
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

More information »
  • Every Day Matters – Ministry initiative to assist schools with reporting and analysing attendance data.
  • 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 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.

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 make changes to practice. The results of these changes were reflected in subsequent NZCER Student Engagement data.”
Cherie Taylor-Patel, (2016)

More information »
  • NZCER National surveys – provide useful data for school leaders to identify trends and implement strategies that support learners across the Community of Learning.



Information sharing

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.

More information »
Students sitting on the court screenshot

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.

Gathering and analysing data to inform tailored interventions

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:


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 students.



Data should be accurate

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

  • Make use of automated data formats like 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 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 data recorded 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 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.”
PLD Advisory Group Report, (2014)

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.

Vahey, P., Yarnall, L., Patton, C., Zalles, D., & Swan, K. (April 2006). Mathematizing middle school: Results from a cross-disciplinary study of data literacy

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)

Analysing data requires the development of particular skills in the use of a range of statistical tools and methodologies.

Resources 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 required because an SMS’s built-in tools are not sufficient, data can be exported to a spreadsheet and analysed as outlined in Assessment Online.

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.


What to look for when analysing data

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.

Questions you might be looking to 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.

More information »
  • 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 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.



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 .

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.

Student record transfer explained



electronic Attendance Register  (eAR)

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


Early Notification (EN)

Early Notification allows notifications about student absences to be sent to parents/caregivers by text or email messaging.


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).


Every Day Matters

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:

  1. Only collect information that you need to have.
  2. Get the information from the individual concerned.
  3. Tell the individual what you are doing.
  4. Use lawful, fair and reasonable methods to collect information.
  5. Store and transmit information securely.
  6. Give people access to their information.
  7. Deal with incorrect personal information.
  8. Check for accuracy before use.
  9. Retain information for as long as necessary.
  10. Use personal information for its purposes.
  11. Limits on disclosure of personal information.
  12. Use of personal identification numbers.
More information »

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.

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.

The School Records Retention/Disposal Information Pack gives advice to schools on their legal obligations to retain, store, and dispose of school records.

Information includes:

  • using the retention and disposal schedule
  • creating, using, and maintaining records
  • storing and handling records
  • keeping electronic 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 :

  1. Student Records
  2. Governance
  3. Personnel
  4. Finance
  5. Property and Administration
  6. Historical

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.

SMS functions

  • Management of student data – Includes recording, analysis, and reporting of pastoral, achievement, and attendance information for students, teachers, whānau/caregivers, community, and Ministry.
  • Management of student's personal information – Includes information useful when enrolling students such as access to pastoral and wellbeing data needed to provide supported starts. Student information should include information from providers such as health professionals and social services. Information being shared to support students needs to be accurate and 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 (e.g. data entry on a mobile device out in the playground). Systems must allow for flexibility in scheduling and timetabling. Systems should support common practices and standards to enable the movement of and access to reliable information, including for example: financial records, calendars, resources, student activities.
  • Data hub – The SMS should act as a data base 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. 

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:

  • technical design
  • ease of use
  • support
  • cost
  • interoperability with other systems
  • the depth and breadth of features and functions.

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:

  • 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 Ministry or using Student Record Transfer (SRT).

Professional Learning

Professional learning around the use of your SMS is essential. It might encompass:

  • growing a culture of data-informed decision making and teaching as inquiry
  • the importance of growing data quality
  • exploring the capabilities of the SMS to record and analyse data
  • exporting data for analysis
  • configuration and effective use of the SMS.
Tutor Training

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.

Education.gov.nz image

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

Ministry of Education screenshot

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”.


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.

Centre for strategic education image

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.

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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.

Rukihia Rarangahia image

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.

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.

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.

Education.gov.nz image

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.

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.”

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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.

Privacy Commissioner screenshot

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.

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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 as well as by individual schools.

Education.gov.nz image

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

Ministry of Education screenshot

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”.

CLA e-Learning community discussions

Join these groups to participate in discussions, ask questions, and share resources with other educators. 

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