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Building An Automated Record System : Back to Home National Forum on Education Statistics
Introduction Purpose of this Booklet Contents of this Booklet Description of a Student Record Description of a Student Record System Benefits of a Well-Designed Automated Student Record System Steps for Designing and Implementing an Automated Student Record System Summary Resource List
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One advantage of a well-designed student record system is that data must be entered only once for use by all persons with an established need to use the data.

Step 8 : Determine how you will enter or import data into the student record system.

Data must be put into the system. Paper systems accept data that are handwritten, typed, or printed out from computers. Entry into a computerized system can be direct, through keying or optical scanning, or through data importation from another source. SPEEDE/ExPRESS is an excellent example of electronic data interchange (EDI) as a method for moving records directly from one computer system into another.

The most efficient student record system requires data entry only one time. Instead of asking a parent to complete a paper form that requires a clerk to copy information onto a roster which is then keyed into a computer file, an ideal system might have the parent enter the data directly into the file via a computer terminal, or onto an optical scan form that can be read by the computer and placed in a file. Automated editing procedures could be used to ensure that valid information is entered, and can even allow for a clerk to edit or accept the information before a permanent entry appears on the official file.

As with other phases of data collection, entry, and use, it is important to ensure data confidentiality. Selecting those responsible for entering new or updated student data into the system must be done carefully, and they must be trained to maintain the confidentiality of the data. The previously mentioned document, Protecting the Privacy of Student Records: Guidelines for Education Agencies, contains recommendations for this area.

Whenever a child enters a school for the first time, a new record is created or is received from a school the student previously attended. Information is collected from parents the first time a child is enrolled, and that information is kept over time with additions and corrections made as the student progresses through school. Ideally when a student is transferred or promoted to a new school or transfers out of the district, the student record follows electronically so that the record can be entered directly into the receiving school's information system. This will help the receiving school to make appropriate placement decisions and ensure that data do not have to be collected again by the receiving district. Otherwise a new record must be created for the student.

When you implement a new student record system, you may identify data elements for which you do not currently have data. You will have to obtain this information from parents, the student or perhaps a staff member such as a teacher or counselor. Whenever you collect data, there are certain things you should consider in designing the form on which the data will be recorded. These guidelines are relevant even if the "form" is online.

Checklist for Collecting New Data
Suggestion Strategy
Make sure the purpose of the data collection is understood by the data provider.  
Provide clear instructions for completing the form, including specific instructions for individual items when necessary.  
Make definitions of data elements consistent with standard definitions for those data elements, when possible.  
Provide definitions for any words in the form whose meaning may be unclear.  
Use standard language and avoid jargon and abbreviations. Make sure that the technical terms used are appropriate for the data providers. Keep questions short and simple.  
Include check-off options whenever a complete list can be compiled.  
Examine each item on the form to be sure it is needed  
Avoid sensitive or invasive questions where possible. When such items are necessary, careful wording and placement should be considered.  
Ensure that the requested information can be provided by the data provider.  
Minimize the amount of time data providers will need to complete the form.  

Training is critical to ensuring that data are consistently entered into the data system.

Registrars, principals, counselors, and even school secretaries are the ones who usually collect data about students initially. As a result, it is important that they are trained in the correct procedures for obtaining information from parents and students. Besides having a familiarity about what information is being requested and how it should be entered, they need to know how to deal with instances when no information is provided. For instance, if the parent declines to provide a response to race/ethnicity on a form, the person assisting with the form needs to know what to do. A major part of the training for these individuals is a focus on confidentiality of the data and their responsibility to maintain the data securely. Obtaining information from parents and students should be done in a manner than minimizes embarrassment or inconvenience.

If you are moving data from an existing data system to a new data system, you will need to develop and test procedures to crosswalk the data from the old system into the proper locations in the new system. Whether or not the data entry is new or a crosswalk from the old system, once the data are entered into the system, you should do edit checks to ensure that answers are within the desired range, that there are no missing data, and that words are not misspelled.

There is more detail about data collection in the Standards for Education Data Collection and Reporting (SEDCAR). SEDCAR provides standards for effectively collecting and reporting education data.

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