Is Your District’s SIS Getting the Job Done? 5 Key Questions to Consider

Today’s tech-powered K-12 education landscape is more complex than ever. Districts are asked to efficiently and securely manage large quantities of student data, meet rapidly evolving compliance requirements, and engage families — all on a tight budget.  

Many districts have turned to the Student Information System (SIS) for help. An SIS is a web-based software application that stores important student data for teachers, administrators, students, and parents. Educators and administrators use the SIS to manage a range of data inputs, including attendance, grading, performance tracking, state reporting, master scheduling, and more.  

Given those wide-ranging capabilities, the SIS’s impact goes to the very heart of a school district’s mission: improving student outcomes.  

Unfortunately, however, an outdated or ineffective system may actually prevent districts from accomplishing their goals. 

Is your district getting what it needs from its SIS? Here are five questions to ask when assessing your current system to find out if you are ready for a switch.  

  1. Has your total cost of ownership skyrocketed? When evaluating the costs and benefits of an SIS, it’s important to look beyond just the upfront investment. The indirect costs of lost productivity, poor functionality, missed or late funding due to state reporting problems, and on-premise hosting can be significant. Unexpected downtime or data breach/loss can be even more damaging. Upgrading to a new system may be a significant investment, but so, too, are costs of continuing to rely on an outdated one. 
  2.  How easy is the system to use? No matter how strong the engineering, an SIS has only limited value unless it’s easy for teachers and administrators to use. Teachers should be asked to input key data only once. They shouldn’t have to juggle multiple logins to access the system. Navigation from screen to screen should be intuitive and quick. Parents should have easy visibility into their student’s performance via a mobile app. Even the most tech-challenged administrators, teachers, students, and families should be able to input and access data easily, without having to ask for help. 
  3. Is the SIS compatible with other technology? The growth of technology means that educators have more tools at their disposal than ever before. Unfortunately, these software solutions don’t always integrate well with each other. Given the SIS’s central role in a district’s edtech ecosystem, it’s vital that the system configures well with other software solutions. Otherwise, educators may be burdened by multiple logins, they may be forced to re-enter data across multiple screens, data may be at risk, and a district’s tech support team might see its workload increase.
  4. Does the SIS position your district for future success? Today’s SIS is far more than just a hub for data storage. The system must set districts up to thrive into the future — with cloud hosting options, mobile apps, BI technologies, and interoperability of all your software products. This means the SIS should be open and expandable to integrate future innovations. It should be customizable to meet the needs of individual districts. And it should meet growing needs for customized assessment and analytics to support personalized learning.
  5. Does the SIS keep your data secure? Student data security is a topic of increasing importance for both educators and parents. Some organizations think their SIS data is more secure if hosted locally, but on-premise hosting is susceptible to both physical security failures and virtual cybersecurity attacks. Self-hosted environments are also hard to build and maintain.  Cloud or hybrid cloud hosting services, such as Microsoft Azure, offer K-12 districts a global network of data centers, industry standards, and best practices for physical security measures, as well as built-in redundancy, failover, backup, and more for stability and security. 


Take the next step in determining whether your district may benefit from switching to a new SIS by downloading Part 1 of the K-12 SIS Buying Guide: “When and Why to Upgrade.” 

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