Step 1a. Identify uses of the system.
The student record system should have multiple uses and meet the needs of different types of education staff. At the local level, counselors use student records to make decisions about courses a student should take and to assist with problems that may arise. Teachers use student records to help make instructional decisions and to obtain specific information that may assist in working with a student. Principals and other school district officials use aggregate data obtained from student records to make policy decisions and to plan curriculum, instructional services, staffing, and facilities. Research staff use student data to evaluate the success of various programs and interventions. Reporting to the school board, parents, and the public is another use. Many state education agencies collect individual student records for all of the students in the state to assist with monitoring accountability and future planning.
Perhaps the most critical use of student records is the decision making about instruction and services to be provided to the student. Ensuring that the student's record follows him or her when a school change is made is essential. The adoption of a coordinated student record system within a school district can help to ensure that students' records are transmitted to receiving schools when they move or are promoted to a different school.
Transmitting student records electronically across district lines and to postsecondary institutions is facilitated by the adoption of a standard format for sending and receiving student records. A nationally recognized standard format is called SPEEDE/ExPRESS (SPEEDE stands for Standardization of Postsecondary Education Electronic Data Exchange, and ExPRESS stands for Exchange of Permanent Records Electronically for Students and Schools.). Developed through a consensus process by representatives of elementary/secondary and postsecondary education, SPEEDE/ExPRESS is a standard format for the contents of a student transcript and other related information (e.g., health conditions) that should be forwarded when a student moves to another school or applies to a postsecondary institution. SPEEDE/ExPRESS was developed to facilitate rapid, direct electronic exchange of student records between computers. The SPEEDE/ExPRESS format increasingly is being used by postsecondary institutions and even some businesses for sending and receiving student records. While not yet widely adopted at the K-12 level, there are some school districts that transmit student records in the SPEEDE/ExPRESS format to postsecondary institutions. [See the Resource List for information on how to learn more about SPEEDE/ExPRESS.]
Step 1b. Prioritize uses.
Once users have been polled and critical uses identified, it is a good idea to rank them from essential to optional. There may be resource limitations (e.g., money, computer capability, or staff) that cause you to implement your system in stages, so identifying essential uses will help you to know where to begin. Timing is also a critical aspect, as there are periods of time in school calendars that are too busy to implement new activities.
Step 1c. Develop a statement of purpose and objectives.
At this point, you may want to develop a statement of purpose and objectives for the student record system, so that all potential users (and even non-users) will know what the system is expected to accomplish. In this statement, you should list any logical connections with other administrative software as well as describe how it fits into your organization's overall information technology plan.
Different uses may call for a design with separate files, or separate areas within a file, but the ability to integrate information across locations is necessary. Step 1 merely delineates and describes all the potential uses of the student record system. With these uses ranked from essential to optional, Step 2 can begin.