What to Look For in an SIS For Your Charter School
A Student Information System (SIS) is the hub for student-centered school processes that allows educators to efficiently manage student records, including attendance, grades, class schedules, family information, and more. An effective SIS should centralize student data, administrative tasks, and learning activity in a unified system. Educators, parents, and students utilize your SIS throughout the year and at critical times like enrollment and reporting season. This is especially important for charter schools, as their renewal hinges on the ability to provide and validate academic performance benchmarks.
All SISs support the critical functions of a school, but they’re not all made equally. An SIS company that a district school uses might not have the capabilities or expert resources that your charter school needs to be successful. Adopting a new SIS is no small task either, as it entails significant change management for your users, aligning your business processes to a new product, and the migration of a lot of data. That’s why picking the right SIS for your charter school is crucial to your daily operations and the success of your staff and students.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the key considerations for selecting an SIS that’s the best fit for your charter school.
How Accessible and Easy to Use is Your SIS?
The NEA reports that around 90% of educators support the idea of reduced paperwork as a way to reduce burnout. When implemented effectively, an SIS strengthens teachers’ ability to support teaching and learning needs while reducing administrative burden.
Administrators and teachers should be able to access and manage student enrollment, classes, curricula, assignments, grades, report cards, and communication from a centralized location. In a charter school environment where there’s more flexibility in how teachers decide to structure their classes, you’ll want an SIS that is customizable to enhance each of your teachers’ unique workflows.
For Families and Students
More and more charter schools are adopting hybrid learning models to further personalize learning experiences for their students. As more charter schools shift to non-traditional instructional models, it becomes even more important to ensure parents are involved in their student’s learning outside the classroom.
Charter schools should prioritize an SIS that is accessible to students and their families so that technology isn’t a barrier to their involvement. Some considerations may include:
- Intuitive interface: To accommodate varying levels of digital literacy, look for an SIS with an intuitive design, clear navigation paths, and easy access to the most used features.
- Mobile-friendly design: A mobile-friendly SIS will enable families and students to engage with content at their convenience, regardless of regular access to a laptop or desktop.
- User support and training resources: Providing support resources and training materials will help ensure families can effectively use the portals within the SIS, keeping access equitable and communication seamless to everyone involved.
- Multilingual capabilities: Students and their families should be able to toggle between several languages on the SIS interface with a high level of accuracy.
Does Your SIS Include Localized, Expert Customer Support?
While most SIS vendors offer some level of support, it’s important to evaluate what specific needs your charter school might have.
For example, if your charter school offers programs or activities that occur outside of normal school hours, it’s worth considering whether the SIS vendor offers on-demand or 24/7 support. Other technical features you might look for include varying channels of support, such as live chat, phone, email, or text.
You’ll also want to assess the expertise of the support staff itself. Your commitment to a vendor will likely span multiple years, so you’ll want to evaluate them as a partner just as much as a platform. It’s important to ensure their team communicates consistently and provides tailored support to the diverse needs of your school community—from teachers and administrators to students and their families.
Additionally, SIS vendors that have historically served charter schools will give you a team well-versed in understanding state-specific compliance and reporting requirements.
How Well Does Your SIS Integrate with Your Technology Stack?
You’ll want an SIS that integrates well with platforms and support systems. Having technology that works together can vastly increase efficiency across your organization—especially for teachers.
66% of public school teachers think that having more time to teach (as opposed to administrative work) would keep them motivated and more satisfied in their role. Leveraging an SIS with vast integration capabilities will streamline teachers’ administrative workload by:
- Reducing data silos and time spent on data entry with external applications that feed data directly into the SIS.
- Centralizing document storage so that educators can quickly and easily find the documents they need—without fumbling through a stack of papers.
- Quickly finding insights on student performance by integrating with data visualization platforms.
- Streamlining operations with a unified application, registration, and enrollment management tool.
- Automating lottery processes with a fair and equitable lottery system.
Whether your charter school is new or well-established, an SIS with wide-scale compatibility can adapt to the scale and growth of your school. To make sure you get the most out of a platform, consider auditing your existing tech stack to understand your unique integration needs and avoid vendor lock-in.
Is Your SIS Built with Compliance Requirements in Mind?
When reporting season rolls around, an SIS that is built for your specific state and charter school’s compliance requirements can save a considerable amount of time and headaches. For instance, if a vendor fails to update their systems with evolving requirements, it could come at the risk of pulling inaccurate data and jeopardizing your funding as a result.
Aside from regular product enhancements, features like custom templates that make it easy to create tailored reports can make reporting season more manageable.
As you evaluate how different SIS vendors support state data and essential compliance reporting, you should also make sure they’re committed to both state and federal privacy laws relevant to your charter school.
School Pathways’ SIS
For over 20 years, School Pathways has worked with educators to continuously refine an SIS built for the unique needs and challenges of non-traditional schools.
Our intuitive dashboard for teachers, mobile-friendly portal for students and families, and our expert CALPADS support and reporting tools are just some of the features that have made life easier for the hundreds of charter schools we work with.
Consider grading your current SIS to determine whether a change might benefit your organization. If you’d like to see how our SIS (or any of our other products) work in the context of your charter school, request a demo with us. We’re here to help.
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