Sorting out systems
By Mike Eden
Most schools have adopted a Management Information System (MIS), notably the SIMS software, but a number of different packages are available. With all MIS, it is essential that data input is accurate as it is not repeatedly entered into the database. By ensuring that all parts of a MIS 'one another, reports can then be compiled using all available data.
- A good assessment system can be used as a record of a student's results, indicate various trends and illustrate areas in which students are experiencing difficulties.
- In its simplest form, an assessment system will mimic a teacher's mark book and teachers will enter the results of homework, tests and exams.
- Other teachers can collate the data a teacher inputs into their own database. If, for example, a mathematics test is set to Year 7 students, then the head of mathematics can collate all the students' results in their own area by compiling data from all individual teachers' databases. Similarly, if tests were set in a variety of subjects, then the year head could collate all the results for the students in that year and use the results to monitor achievement.
- Some assessment systems are sophisticated enough to standardise all results so that every set of results has the same average and standard deviation. For example, if a student gained a mathematics mark of 25, an English mark of 38 and a science mark of 63, these cannot be compared, as it is not known what totals these tests were marked out of, or how well this student performed compared with other students. If we standardise the results with an average of 70 and a standard deviation of 10, then we can see from the mark how well the student has performed. Now the marks are mathematics 68, English 82 and science 51, and illustrate that the student is almost average in mathematics, performing extremely well in English, but is weak in science.
- Assessment systems can be used to amalgamate results from different subjects and give different weightings to different subjects. The final result for Year 7 students might be found by averaging all their results from all the subjects, but first the teacher might decide that mathematics, English and science should be more heavily weighted than other subjects.
MIS can also be used to compile end-of-term reports for parents. More sophisticated systems will also allow teachers to add comments to reports, but with the advantage that the typing is legible to the parents!
Other MIS use a process of 'comment banks', which are set up centrally in schools and use standard phrases. Each phrase is given a code and teachers list the codes to be printed for each student. The MIS then amalgamates these codes into a piece of free-flow text for a teacher to adjust manually. Most reporting systems also rely on an assessment system.
Some of the assessment systems outlined illustrate how a MIS can be used to monitor students, analyse trends and report on connections in different areas. A MIS in schools can also be used to analyse public examination results and report on the trends compared with the national picture, as well as the school's own performance.
The MIS can be used for financial planning and financial reports as well as pastoral information and examination results. In today's instant information environment, a school's management needs to be immediately able to observe trends and act accordingly.