Blog Archives - Registration Gateway

Digital Possibilities: Automated Reporting and Retention Compliance

So you’ve gone digital…now what? To get the most out of an electronic record database, automation is key.

But in order for automated reports and retention to work as flawlessly as it can and should, settings must be carefully programmed for certain categories of documents.

It’s simpler than it sounds. Think of a computer’s document library. Clearly labeled folders make for easy navigation, and sub-categories even more so. The folders simply must exist before documents can be routed into them, but within an electronic record database, the routing itself can be automated. The same goes for expiration notification. For example, let’s say that a document category titled “Volunteer Background Checks” has an expiration parameter set for 6 months. Based on the day each document flows into this category, a notification to request an updated document is automatically set for 6 months later. Once the parameter is set, automation can take over.

Furthermore, with electronic records of student documents, reports can pull and export themselves autonomously at a scheduled time.

We really like the export functionality. We used it a lot when we started having applications (for new students) come in. But, it being our first year using the software, I was nervous when my planned two week vacation landed on our launch date. In order to prepare, I created a few reports and scheduled an export to send to the necessary personnel first thing in the morning every day during my absence. This allowed for all involved departments and operations to run smoothly without missing a beat.

— Christine Potenza, Database Administrator, Passaic County Technical Institute

Reports generated by a sophisticated document management software are helpful when it comes to organization and projection for future planning. Compliance with state law around retention schedules, and federal laws such as FERPA and HIPAA, can also be programmed within an electronic record database.

Retention Automation

What is record retention?

All government entities, including public school districts, are required to maintain records under federal and state law. The maintenance of records is a legal requirement and is important for documenting the activities on which state and federal tax money was expended. Records also make policies transparent and preserve the history and knowledge of government entities. For school districts specifically, federal laws such as FERPA and HIPAA are taken into account when structuring state record retention schedules. States may not lessen a federal requirement, but they may extend it. The same rule applies for local government extending upon a state’s guideline. Further, states and/or districts may have regulations where the federal government has none. For example, federal law does not, in itself, require that a school keep a transcript for any length of time. However, many states require that schools keep student transcripts forever.

What is a record retention schedule?

A record retention schedule protects both the district’s interests and the public’s rights by providing guidance to the district about the management of records. A retention schedule tells the district how long to keep certain records and gives the district authority to destroy records when appropriate. It specifies how long records must be kept and includes references to laws that govern the retention period for particular documents. School district personnel should follow their district’s record retention schedule regarding the destruction and retention of all records collected, created, received, maintained, or disseminated by a school district.

How can electronic document management platforms aid with compliance to record retention schedules?

An electronic document database allows school personnel to take record retention out of the hands and minds of staff members. Basically, the responsibility of document organization, retention, and destruction can all be automated within a secure repository.

  • Organization
    • Through the use of scanning software, documents can automatically enter the right file with the right retention settings.
  • Retention
    • Upon the expiration date for the document, it can either be removed from the system if authorized for destruction, or notify personnel that an updated document must be submitted to replace it.

It’s as simple as that.

Automated Reporting

How is it done?

When records exist electronically, organization and tagging are paramount to perfection. Labeled categories and sub-categories allow school personnel to pull some pretty interesting reports. For example, the overarching category “Student Records” is comprised of each student’s individual file. In each student file, records exist within the same sub-category. Simply, every file holds a birth record, a medical record, proof of residency, etc.

From an advanced document management dashboard, a well-managed view of records can be found and automatically updated daily. Things you should be able to view from a dashboard include new enrollments and expiring documents. On the other hand, missing documents are just as important to catch – and it is much easier to catch them when the student file is already built electronically and simply waiting for blanks to be filled.

Another useful function of automated reporting is scheduled exports. This refers to certain reports that need to be updated and referred to frequently, such as new student enrollments. With a scheduled export, your registrar can program this report to be pulled every day. To go a step further, your registrar can schedule the export of all new student medical documents and have it mailed to the school nurse every day.

How can advanced reporting help with budgetary and day-to-day planning?

To plan for coming years, schools need to glean a lot of statistical information from their student records. By capturing data at the time of enrollment, and updating that data throughout the student lifecycle, numerical evidence gives specific and trustworthy insight from automated reports. When done manually, these kinds of graphs are subject to human error. When calculated algorithmically through computer-generated reports, the results are much more dependable.

Reports can be generated based on an infinite amount of variables. For example, if your district captures data at the time of enrollment, they may ask registering parents how many siblings under the age of 5 a student has. From this information, a report may be pulled to show a projection for kindergarten registration. Another example may be a report pulled over the summer to show how many students will reach legal driving age. This would help project for the necessary amount of parking passes that may be distributed at the beginning of the next school year. Reports showing student eligibility for free/reduced lunch may help qualify for grants. Reports showing honor roll qualifiers, their amount of siblings and legal guardians, and allergies may help to plan a dinner event celebrating an Honor Roll Induction. The possibilities here are endless, and school district staff can get creative in order to prepare for an equally endless amount of situations.

Conclusion

Through expiration parameters set for certain documents and data, school districts can use electronic record management to automate compliance with federal, state, and local retention schedules. Additional reporting can aid in day-to-day organization for many different departments, as well as extending projection capabilities to help with planning and budgeting for coming years.

 

How to Prevent Address Fraud in your Schools

One of the challenges that public schools face is ensuring that all enrolled students are registered with legitimate addresses. It has become increasingly common for parents to enroll their children in a school out of district with fake addresses. This might mean that parents are using a family member’s home address, information from an old home that’s within the district or an entirely falsified address.

Districts are noticing this problem within their schools and are cracking down on the issue, enforcing strict policies that include fees for families that get caught enrolling students with inaccurate addresses. After all, educating students who are illegally registered takes seats and funding away from students who live within the district. However, a lot of schools that use paper-based enrollment processes are having trouble confirming accurate addresses. This is why many schools are going digital with online solutions like SRC Solution’s Address Purification Gateway, which automates a process of confirming legitimate student addresses.

If you’ve been debating whether to invest in a digital solution to assist your staff with identifying falsified addresses, here are the answers to the questions you’ve been asking.

How much does address fraud really cost schools?
Address fraud that occurs for a long period of time without interference can end up costing schools millions of dollars. A report by nonprofit organizations Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools and the Center for Popular Democracy found that fraud has cost U.S. charter schools over $200 million in recent years. According to the Washington Post, the 2015 report includes over $44 million from cases that happened before 2014, the 2014 total and the $23 million in new cases of fraud that have occurred since 2014.

The Washington Post also noted that while these figures only represent the money lost in the charter school sector, which educates around 5 percent of the students enrolled in public schools, the total loss for all schools due to address fraud throughout the U.S. in 2015 was about $1.4 billion. A large part of these wasted expenses include the estimated $2,500 spent on printing and mailing of student forms to incorrect addresses.

Ensure your schools are able to put funds toward student programs by preventing costly address fraud.

What are schools doing about the issue?
Officials from Chicago Public Schools have recently discovered several cases of address fraud in 11 of its highly-selective schools, explained Chicago news source DNAinfo. As a result, the district is sending a message to families that this illegal activity won’t be tolerated, charging families with out-of-district tuition fees that they believe to be the fair equivalent of the time and money they would have owed if enrolled correctly. For example, a student attended Payton High School for four years enrolled with a fake apartment address. Once this was discovered, the family was charged with a $45,000 non-resident tuition bill for the four years he attended. They’ve also implemented a life-time ban from all 11 schools for those caught.

“Fraud not only undermines confidence in the school system, it robs a deserving student of an important educational opportunity. With a lifetime ban, we are sending a strong message to parents that this fraud will no longer be tolerated and that consequences cannot be avoided.”

Forrest Claypool, CPS chief executive officer said in a press release, as quoted by DNAinfo.

Address fraud isn’t a problem limited to U.S. school districts. The Black Country and Staffordshire school districts in the U.K. recently reported finding 39 cases of address fraud over the past three years, according to the Express and Star. These students were removed from the school and residential students took their places.

What can you do to protect your schools?
Instead of hiring more staff members to closely monitor all of the new and existing student addresses, invest in an online solution that tracks student moves, performs an address analysis and validates data for you to catch any out-of-date addresses that would be hard to identify when assessing paper documents. Aside from lost time, man power and thousands in funding, address fraud also causes damage to schools’ reputations, which may encourage other families to enroll students with faulty information.

“If a district was to gain a reputation of not being particularly vigilant, there might be an invitation to other parents [living outside the district] to go ahead and bring your child in,” Jay Worona, general counsel to the New York State School Boards Association, told U.S. News and World Report.

The Address Purification Gateway will bring a high return on investment by cutting down on printing and mailing costs and saving funding for legally registered students. Don’t risk your district’s reputation by allowing address fraud to occur in your schools. Monitor both new and existing addresses with the Address Purification Gateway.

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overwhelmed secretary

5 Common Errors with Manual Registration

A digital registration solution can help both parents and staff make the registration process paperless, secure, and efficient. Switching from a manual, paper-based enrollment system to an online registration solution will mitigate risks like misplaced student files and data entry errors.

Many industries have switched from analog to digital in order to save space and increase efficiency. Think about how much easier it is to find the song you want to hear now that you no longer have to go through a CD collection, input the disk into another device, and read the jewel case to find the right song. You simply search for the song within your own digital library or elsewhere online and it pops up and plays. You also don’t have to risk opening the CD case to find that the disk has gone missing, or worse, a different CD in its place. This discovery could mean the entire organization of your CD collection has been compromised. School systems and offices are now feeling a similar relief when it comes to the registration information and necessary documentation of their staff and clients.

With an online registration solution, the common errors that come with manual registration are prevented entirely.  Within a school system, the standard process of registering a child for their education has been that the parent personally fills out the forms, which are handed over to school staff in order to be manually entered into the student information system (SIS) and then filed accordingly, as well as distributed throughout the staff appropriately. A similar process also occurs when new employees are hired and have to submit the same information to the human resources department. SRC Solutions has reinvented the standard by going digital. Here are the 5 most common errors of manual registration that can be automatically corrected and prevented by utilizing a digital system. The examples given below regarding new student enrollment can also be applied to a new hire situation between the HR department and a new employee.

  1. Prevent incomplete data while increasing parent confidence.

Digital solutions actually make parents feel more involved and confident about their student’s registration, while simultaneously preventing them from making mistakes and disrupting the whole process. Normally, a parent is handed a hefty paper packet which asks all the necessary questions a school must ask in order to keep track and take care of a student. When parents fill this kind of information out on paper, it is very easy for blanks to go unfilled, either because the parent is resistant to answer or because human error permits them to skip over a question. When filling out the information online, products such as Registration Gateway make sure the parent cannot move to the next set of questions without answering absolutely everything the school considers necessary. It also prevents them from entering data in an unacceptable format. This ensures that the data flowing into the SIS is clean and complete.

  1. Prevent illegible data while saving time for staff.

Everybody’s handwriting is different, and what is legible to one person is not always legible to the next. The next step in the traditional registration process after parents fill out the paper forms, is handing over that packet to a registrar or secretary to be manually entered into the SIS. Even if your paper registration packet is only 10 pages long, and you only have 500 students in one school, you’re still depending on your staff to manually enter 5,000 pages of information, and decipher 500 different kinds of handwriting. The average manual data entry error rate for humans is 1 percent, meaning that 1 out of every 100 entries is erroneous, explained Ugerboek Software. Registration Gateway eliminates this step of the process entirely. The data flows directly from the parent portal in Registration Gateway, and, after being approved by the school, transfers directly into the SIS. This means no more translating parents’ handwriting, and no misspellings in the data as a result. It also saves hours and hours of time and redundant effort for the staff.

  1. Better control and regulate the student data.

St. Street. Str. (555)123-4567. 555-123-4567. 5551234567. There are many different modes that data can be relayed when you hand a client a pen instead of offering them options to choose from. With a digital registration process, the input of data is regulated according to the administrator’s preference. The data relating to each individual student can be managed on a grand scale to make sure that the data is logged and stored in the most consistent manner possible. This prevents problems you might not expect, such as issues with mailing addresses, contact information, and student transportation information. For example, you may think you notified every parent of a child who lives on Main St. about a situation on their children’s bus route. But if one student has their data logged differently (ex. Main Street), their parents may fail to be informed. Registration Gateway from SRC Solutions, Inc. is completely tailorable to any individual school district’s needs and preferences.

  1. Paper is vulnerable – make your data safer.

Paper is an incredibly vulnerable substance. It can burn, it can be torn, it can turn to mush during a flood, and it can be stolen or misplaced. In cases of fire or flood, school systems that rely on paper files are left without a back-up plan; the data is simply destroyed. Forest Brook High School in Houston, Texas, recently fell under fire for failing to provide student records that proved former students had been enrolled in their school, reported KHOU.com. When investigated by the Texas Education Agency, the school was also found to have student enrollment files that were completely illegible and some students even had two completely different transcripts with varying information. The TEA noted that one of the issues behind the inaccurate, poorly maintained records is the recent floods that have swept through the city, which may have destroyed many of the missing documents. Natural disasters do happen, but the threat of being handled by man is much more common issue and can even be more detrimental to school security. Storing these files electronically not only ensures safety in case of tragedies or computer malfunctions, but it also protects them from the eyes and hands that shouldn’t be handling them, as well as making sure they are constantly in the correct place and easily accessible. To give you an idea of how much time and money searching for misplaced paper documents can cost an organization, the average office spends about 8 hours performing paper management. Business offices with about 1,000 employees waste approximately $48,000 per week due to the inability to locate and deliver needed information, according to the National Association of Professional Organizers. Password protection and data encryption makes every student’s information available to the parents and the appropriate members of the staff, but secures it against privacy invasion. This also prevents infractions upon the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which mandates that schools must keep a complete, organized file for every child and protect it against privacy breaches.

  1. Ensure that parents submit all the necessary documentation and eliminate appointments with parents (or bring it down to the bare minimum)

Many documents have to be submitted to enroll a child for school before they can actually attend school and be sorted into the correct classes. Birth certificates, social security cards, proof of residence, vaccination and allergy records, and other documentation are the parent’s responsibility to provide for the school. Neglecting to bring one of the documents to the scheduled registration appointment means they have to schedule another time to come in and complete the process. With online solutions like Registration Gateway, each of these documents can be scanned by the parents on their own time, and then automatically distributed to the appropriate departments within the school. While some schools do still require an actual appointment with the parents at the end of their digital registration process, this step could theoretically be eliminated. If this is not the case for a certain school, the online registration process can ease the ability to make appointments between parents and administrators, as well as provide a way for the documentation to be submitted before the appointment date, or at the very least prepare the parents to bring all the right documents in at that time.

About Registration Gateway

The only true paperless solution of its kind, Registration Gateway streamlines student registration, re-enrollment and information tracking into a simple, intuitive process. By digitizing and automatically integrating data into existing student information systems, Registration Gateway saves money, increases compliance, mitigates legal and disaster risk and creates new funding opportunities. To read more, click here.

a paper heart torn in half

10 Ways that Paper Will Break Your Heart

  1. Hard to access– Getting and using information within seconds, not days, is the norm in today’s global and mobile world. Paper lacks the immediacy and accessibility of electronic documents, and severely lengthens the time it takes for information to get from one person to the next. Paper can end up in the wrong file, mailed to the wrong address, or even in the trash – like at Intermediate School 47 in the Bronx, where 11 boxes of student documents were accidentally left on the curb. With electronic documents and workflow automation tools, you can create and route documents and data that can reach the right people, right away, without manual intervention. All they (teachers, principals, board members, students, and even parents) need is a device with internet connection and permission to access certain documents.
  2. The right information is harder to find – A study conducted by Deloitte & Touche found that U.S. managers spent an average of three hours a week looking for paper that had been misfiled, mislabeled, or lost. Electronic documents are easier to file and find because they can be indexed using keys like student ID, date, document type or other user-defines criteria. You can even use full-text searching, making it simple and quick to find important documents.
  3. Lack of process automation– Process automation is the intelligent management and routing of information through a business process or workflow. Using document management and distribution software, you can build rules to route, distribute and store electronic documents, reports and other data. At Passaic County Technical Institute, the database administrator used process automation tools to schedule reports to export and send themselves to the proper personnel every morning while she was away on vacation. You can also collaborate between departments or separate schools by sharing documents digitally so they can be reviewed, edited and saved.
  4. Unsatisfactory data collection and output quality – On paper, processes like school registration are muddied by guardians leaving fields blank, or secretaries misreading different kinds of handwriting. Using web-based form technology to collect and exchange information not only speeds up the process, but improves data quality. Software can be implemented in addition to data-capturing form technology to further improve data quality, such as type-ahead addresses verified through the USPS, and address purification mapping.
  5. Higher costs – Reams of paper, mailing expenses, manila folders, printer ink and repair – these things add up quickly. And let’s not forget the time it costs employees to manually enter data, file documents, retrieve them and scan them. Digital processes eliminates all of these costs once and for all.
  6. Slow return of approvals – Utilizing electronic signature solutions speeds up approval processes for external and internal documents. Electronic documents can be signed digitally and routed for the next step quickly, reliably and securely. This can speed up purchase requests, loan approvals, expense reports, contracts and much more. In terms of contact with parents, the electronic signature can facilitate the reception of report cards, permission slips, student handbook contracts, etc.
  7. Liability to regulatory compliance – Regulations such as HIPAA and FERPA require schools to take significant measures to maintain data confidentiality and integrity. Paper-based systems make tracking and managing data more difficult and expensive than digital document systems. Electronic document management systems can provide an audit trail of when documents are received or sent. Built-in security prevents unauthorized access, maintaining data confidentiality. FERPA also requires that parents be given certain student documents upon request within 30 days – with an electronic document management system they don’t even have to ask; they can simply be given an account and password for their student’s file upon enrollment.
  8. Its harmful to the environment– The world has begun to see the value in going green and reducing our carbon footprint. Going paperless by utilizing electronic document management systems and related technology helps cut down on deforestation and pollution.
  9. Improved service– Many customers prefer self-service over setting up appointments over the phone or waiting in line. The enrollment process during the start of a new school year in particular can create a long, long queue in the office. Providing electronic access to all relevant data not only gives customers more accurate and complete information, it makes them happier and more loyal customers. As does allowing customers or guardians to provide you with their relevant data. With certain software solutions, guardians can even access a calendar of open appointments and claim a slot for themselves without picking up the phone or visiting the school.
  10. Cluttered office space – A single filing cabinet holding 9,000 documents usually takes up about 20 sq. ft. in an office. Current estimates from author and efficiency researcher, K.J. McCorry show that 50-70% of space in an office are dedicated to filing and storing physical documents. Statistics also show that 3% of documents in each file cabinet are misfiled, and 45% of documents are duplicated information. That’s a lot of clutter and time spent sifting through it. With a virtual filing system, you’re saving the square footage in the office, around $300 per filing cabinet, and a whole lot of headaches that come with a crowded, less organized workspace.
a boss shakes the hand of a new-hire

How can Digital Workflows Enhance Human Resources Onboarding Management?

Creating, storing and retaining important paper documents for new hires costs schools time and money that could be better spent elsewhere. Meeting compliance regulations and accessing the appropriate data when necessary can also be challenging when administrators have to keep track of paper forms every time new teachers are hired.

Online human resources solutions can streamline onboarding processes by making data easier to access in a system where security breaches are less likely. Districts considering whether to make the transition from paper to digital human resources workflows should take note of these benefits.

An easy switch
If your district uses paper-based workflows for onboarding processes but you’ve been hesitant to go digital due to fear that the switch will take time and effort your staff doesn’t have, rest assured that the transition is a simple one. With SRC Solution’s Human Resources Gateway, you can easily integrate your applicant tracking system, as the software works with most major applicant tracking software.

Every time a new teacher is hired, there information can be integrated into the school's registration software.Every time a new teacher is hired, their information can easily be entered into the human resources software.

Control over new hire documents
With paper documents, there’s always a risk of security breaches. Online HR software ensures that you have complete control over who is able to see and access information about your new teachers. It also helps to mitigate risk by providing immediate access to any data that’s requested by the new employee or during a compliance audit. It’s important that you have essential information ready to go when requested.

If critical files are lost or sensitive data is stolen, schools could risk losing their new hires. According to research by software company Panopto, filling a position that was left open by a new employee because of an onboarding error can cost up to $11,000. Eliminate these risks by storing everything in a secure, accessible system.

More time and savings
As all of your new hire information will be stored in one online portal, this frees up a lot of extra time for your tech teams, which only need to support this one system. School administrators also have more time to focus on other tasks because they don’t have to organize and file hundreds of important documents – online solutions make data entry quick and easy and files searchable. Without the costs required for extra storage space and paper and printing costs for distributing forms to new employees, schools also see a high return on investment after investing in human resources software.

Protect your School’s Network Security

School districts across the nation, such as San Dimas High School (CA), Fulton High School(MO), and Comack Union Free High School (NY) have been hacked by their very own students in the past year, which tells us that when it comes to school network security, we need to protect our servers from threats on the inside.

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks are plaguing districts with increasing frequency. For the sake of pure mischief, these attacks saturate servers with so many external communications requests that they can’t respond to legitimate school traffic, such as teachers trying to access online grades or email. These attacks can range from a slight annoyance, such as the single student who brought down Fulton High School’s network for a few hours, to downright disastrous, such as the month-long network shut down at Community Unit School District 303 in Illinois. The scary part is it only took two high school students and their smartphones to launch this devastating attack on the school’s network.

So how do we prevent our networks from becoming liable to DDoS attacks and our most connivingly tech-savvy students?

Teachers aren’t always aware that they can open doors to security risks when they log into school’s network while students are around. Even more dangerous, as teachers access different web apps on the school network throughout the day, it is not unusual for teachers to leave some or all of their accounts logged in at the end of the day.

Properly signing off of each account goes a long way to protect the school network server and database. Allowing the IT department to implement a privacy protocol is a very effective first step towards ensuring digital security, as long as it’s followed by rigorously educating staff on what that protocol is.

Are there more technologically-offensive approaches to preventing DDoS attacks?

  • Disruptions are rendered short-lived if a district has a software protocol that shifts unwanted inbound traffic to a separate IP address.
  • Intrusion detection software can alert IT staff, who can then shut down DDoS attacks before they cause more disruption.
  • Having two data centers is also a foolproof way to sidetrack DDoS attacks. If the first data center becomes flooded with unwanted traffic, IT can switch all users to the second one so that network access can continue uninterruptedly for other school staff.
  • Although currently at a very high cost, DDoS-mitigation software automatically shuts down attacks without the second step of manual intervention.
  • Storing files in a secure cloud and preventing school staff from downloading files onto personal devices can go a long way to protect sensitive data – as long as staff are taking all the necessary precautions to protect login data. This includes changing passwords frequently, keeping passwords complex, never sharing passwords, and logging off of all accounts when leaving a device.
  • Narrowing the amount of authorized personnel from accessing certain information minimizes risk. This can happen on various levels, such as barring almost all school staff members from accessing social security numbers, and limiting teachers’ access to their own students’ information rather than the entire student body.
  • IAM (Identity and Access Management) technology lets users access online resources with a single sign-on that meets district security policies. IAM also puts tighter controls in the hands of IT staff. This includes automating when accounts, resources and certain operations should be blocked.
"expired" reads a timer

The Smart Way To Track Expiration Dates

There’s only one feeling worse than a looming deadline, and that’s forgetting about it entirely. The repercussions of missing an expiration date can be as innocent as that unsuspecting sip of sour milk, to as dangerous as trying to manage tens of thousands of vaccinations.  Schools in Maryland are taking their first attempt at reigning in this problem. 3,800 unvaccinated children may have to leave Baltimore County School District until their vaccinations are verified by the school.  When that deadline hits, the issue isn’t exactly resolved, at least not for the students who will get to stay in school. Their “deadline” simply gets pushed back to when their vaccination expires. These types of deadlines must continue to be monitored attentively, which brings us to the real issue: the hassle of managing the expiration and mandatory renewals within a school district.

To make an example of what is transpiring in Baltimore, let’s delve into their situation. Schools all over Maryland are barring children without proof of vaccination from entering public school districts, which means monitoring deadlines for both parents and school staff. In order to make sure these children don’t become oversights to school administration, vigilant tracking of medical records and vaccination expiration dates is not only necessary but crucial. Vaccinations are just one example of important deadlines of which school districts must be wary, which is why new techniques of monitoring expiration dates should be explained and available to school districts across the country.

It’s more complicated than it sounds.

The tricky part about vaccination expirations is that every student (and employee, for that matter) has a different date of expiration – and often, this means a different date of expiration for each individual vaccine as well. It is incredibly difficult, if not nearly impossible, for a school district’s team of nurses and secretaries to stay on top of five or more different expiration days for each member of the student body.

This is almost exactly the case with employee and volunteer clearance expiration dates. In states like Pennsylvania, where adults with access to students need four separate clearances (Acts 24, 34, 136, and 151) and a current background check, school administration runs into the same cyclical dilemma of notifying personnel of the demand for updated documentation, resetting expiration dates for those who provide said documentation, or executing proper expulsion from campus.

There are a few key steps that a school district needs to take in order to keep kids safe from disease exposure and unauthorized adults: accurate tracking of all clearance and vaccination dates, significant forewarning to parents, volunteers or employees of their impending deadlines, timely collection of updated student, volunteer and employee records, and attentive removal of certain students or personnel on their expiration dates, should the parent or staff member not provide the necessary documentation. That’s one full datebook for the school nurses and administrators.

Super complicated, right? Let’s put it in perspective.

Let’s create a more tangible example of this problem: School X, a part of School District Y, has 1,000 students. Each student has a medical record showing, or not showing, proof of 5 separate vaccinations. Each student has a different expiration date for each vaccination. School X’s 2 nurses and 4 secretaries use a calendar and a spreadsheet to keep track of the students’ expiries. There are 5,000 different expiration dates, with three dates preceding the ultimate expiry on which they must send a request for an updated medical record from the student guardians. That’s a total of 15,000 dates, and our imaginary school is on the small side. It gets even more complicated when you realize that parents who respond after the first or second date need the subsequent notice dates removed from the calendar.

It goes without saying, but can easily be forgotten – these expiration dates for security clearance and vaccination records never truly expire, with the exception of permanent expulsion, graduation, or death – they only get pushed back and require more rounds of record requests.

A complex problem needs a complex solution

The simple way to stay on top of expiries is to create calendar notifications within a computer system as soon as official records are received by the school. This is a tedious, drawn-out task, which means human error abound. However, the major problem with a simple digital calendar or spreadsheet solution is the lack of forewarning for these upcoming dates. The only date these simple applications really help to track is the date of ultimate action – the day that student or employee must be removed until an updated record is received.

If a school district really wants to stick with the simple solutions, then dates to notify parents and employees (often a first, second, and third warning) must be marked on the calendar or spreadsheet as well.

Instead of struggling to track the mountain of expiration dates constantly on the horizon, more complex solutions to record-tracking are available for this exact purpose. Paradoxically, the more complex your software solution is, the simpler the responsibilities of the humans operating it become.

Record-tracking software can more efficiently store each and every expiration date, for students and for volunteer and employee clearance expirations. Furthermore, record requests for school personnel or parents can be automated to send on the appropriate day before the deadline. Notifications can also be automated to remind the school employee that the request must be sent out. Thus the task of deadline-monitoring becomes less of a mind-boggling pile of student and employee records and more of basic attentiveness to the record-tracking software, with the same vigilance of checking one’s e-mail inbox every day.

In order to be more proactive about upcoming expiries, administrators, nurses, or other permitted employees can view the expiration dates of highest concern exclusively so that they can be dealt with in the clearest manner possible.

A father helps his son with homework

How do good parent-teacher relationships establish high-performing districts?

To excel in their studies, students need support from both their teachers and parents. This means that parent-teacher relationships themselves are very important to students. Children tend to see their mom and dad as role models and are easily influenced by them. If parents aren’t up to date on what their sons or daughters are studying, what their grades are or how they’re behaving in class, students may find it difficult to be motivated when it comes to their work at school.

Parents once had to rely on parent-teacher conferences for a review of their kids’ performance and hope that educators would call if any misconduct occurred. However, with the digitalization of documents like report cards and disciplinary notes, staying aware of students’ progress is easier and more convenient.  School Services departments should consider making parent-teacher relationships a priority by offering online school solutions to keep parents informed and streamline communication between teachers and parents.

Why are parent-teacher relationships important?
Numerous studies have shown that when parents have good relationships with their children’s educators, student performances improve. One recent research review called “A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement” by the National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools, found that when parents are involved with their children’s schooling, they’re able to advocate for their kids and support their progress in the classroom. The research showed that students who had parents who were involved were more confident, displayed higher performance levels and stayed in school longer than those whose parents were uninvolved and rarely communicated with their teachers.

Parents who communicate with their children's teachers will be able to provide more support at home.Parents who communicate with their children’s educators will be able to provide more support at home.

A poll by PBS found similar results. Experts, including doctors and professors, were asked whether parent-teacher relationships were essential to how well students performed in school. The findings showed that respondents agreed that these relationships do contribute to students’ success in school.

“A positive parent-teacher relationship helps your child feel good about school and be successful in school,” Diane Levin, Ph.D., professor of education at Wheelock College told PBS. “It demonstrates to your child that he can trust his teacher, because you do. This positive relationship makes a child feel like the important people in his life are working together.”

“Online student solutions are key to enhanced parent-teacher communication.”

How can school solution software enhance essential relationships?
Student Service departments should offer online school solutions to parents so they can review their children’s important documents and feel more inclined to keep track of their kids’ progress. This is key to enhanced communication between teachers and parents. Electronic student cumulative folders with parent-sharing features enable parents to log on to a secure system and see updates to records like report cards, behavioral evaluations, permission slips and progress reports.

In addition to keeping parents in the loop when it comes to their kids’ progress, online records make it more convenient for teachers to stay organized and keep track of their individual students. This is important, as teachers can have a lot of students at a time, so storing thousands of paper records may become overwhelming and increase the chances that they’ll be misplaced or completed with out-of-date information. During meetings with parents, this could ultimately cause educators to provide the wrong information.

Password protected online records also ensure that safety is a top priority. Schools have to be careful about who can view their student documents. Digitizing records keeps files out of the hands of people who don’t have permission to view them. However, security breaches are always a risk with paper documents.

Parents no longer have to rely on word of mouth to stay posted on what’s going on in the classroom. For a high-performing district, School Services departments should take advantage of secure online solutions to ensure they’re fostering parent-teacher relationships.

School Districts Assist in Child Abuse Prevention and Reporting

School Districts Assist in Child Abuse Prevention and Reporting

When it comes to child abuse, the statistics for our country are saddening. According to Childhelp, there are more than 3 million reports of child abuse made throughout the U.S. each year, involving over 6 million children, one of the worst records of all the industrialized nations. This is the equivalent of one report made every 10 seconds. And therein lies one of the major keys to combating one of the darkest problems to plague our country: reporting. Only through caution, wariness, and diligent reporting can we ensure justice for victims. This is why all 50 states require educators and school personnel to file reports on suspected abuse or negligence, whether they think it comes from in the home or in the school.

The simple news is the fact that child abuse reporting has increased for school-related perpetrators. Shared learning can be implemented to emulate the techniques that certain schools are using to identify potential abuses.

Where has the reporting rate risen and what does it mean?

The Montgomery County school system in Maryland, the largest in the state, reported more than 3,000 incidents of child abuse last year. According to the Washington Post, this is more than double the amount of reports from 2014 and led to the termination of 26 individuals employed by the school, and the revocation of 7 teaching certificates. A member of the district advisory group and a child sexual abuse clinician, Jennifer Alvaro, recognized the new figures: “It’s clear that they have done a lot of hard work to begin the process to help our kids. That should be noted. It should also be noted that a tremendous amount of work needs to be done.”

While the rise in reporting deserves our recognition, as Alvaro suggests, there are still gaps in the reporting process that should be filled in order to prevent child abuse from happening at all. “Some initiatives are not fully implemented – involving volunteers, additional background checks and parent education.”

While it’s admirable that school personnel are tending to the needs of their students through more efficient legal means, they can enforce more preventative measures to decrease child abuse in schools. It’s important to deal with the effects of child abuse through meticulous reporting and proper persecution, but prevention should be the bigger priority.

 

1. How can we further these advances in child abuse reporting?

In 2014, the United States Government Accountability Office put out a report addressing the support needed to prevent and report child abuse by school personnel. One of their suggestions to the federal, state, and local initiatives was to “identify mechanisms to better track and analyze the prevalence of child sexual abuse by school personnel through existing federal data collection systems.”

This falls in line with Alvaro’s suggestion of additional background checks, and including volunteers in these intensive procedures prior to giving them free reign within the school building and/or near the students. “Hampered by inadequate access to employee background information, school districts unwittingly hire teachers and staff accused of sexually abusing students in other districts and states,” the U.S. report said. With little training on how to recognize early signs of predatory behavior, school employees don’t always pay attention to a colleague who is “grooming” a student for sexual abuse with inappropriate attention. And some school districts quietly dismiss teachers accused of potential child sexual abuse, without alerting future employers or seeking to revoke teaching credentials,” the report said.

It’s a sad but true statement that sometimes reporting is all that can be done for the victims in these situations. Some schools just aren’t doing their best to prevent the cause. According to the attorney of two student victims in California, “Brentwood Union School District chose to ignore multiple reports of abuse against vulnerable children and allowed a teacher with a violent history to continue teaching special needs children who could not speak. They reassigned this teacher to another school, again put her in charge of special needs children who could not speak and gave no warning to their parents. Because of their disabilities, these children could not come home and tell their parents what was happening to them in the classroom.” (Check out this article from Oregon to understand how unreported abusive educators end up quietly transferring to different districts in order to prevent school scandals.)

For this reason, it is so important to have a rigorously organized reporting system that keeps track of all incidental data. When the only thing that can be done is file an official report on the abuser, it is imperative that all of the school’s prior knowledge be secured and backed up by dependable technology.

2. How to we improve upon background checks and accessing these “federal data collection systems”? What are the most effective ways to keep abusers out of schools?

You’ll never know who has the capacity to abuse a student, or who already has abused a student and been discreetly swept away by their previous employer, simply by looking at them. The only way to handle these sensitive situations is gather all background information possible prior to hiring any staff member or volunteer, make sure that background information is kept up to date for the entire duration of their employment, and keep track of any and all records that may be needed for an official report of child abuse. This requires the utmost organization and attention to details, such as vetting everyone on school grounds from the principal to the volunteers who supervise field trips or run the drama club.

In addition to educating school staff about the proper procedures for reporting suspicious incidents, every school district should have a secure and reliable new hire system that enables school administrators to gather all the necessary background checks and fingerprint records for storage in one easily accessible and navigable digital platform. It needs to be stressed that these background checks should extend to all volunteers on school grounds. Information is rarely gathered about volunteers who coach sports or run clubs within the school or do things as simple as supervising a field trip. All adults should be treated as an equal risk – because they are. This software solution should have permission and access to federal data collection systems as the U.S. Accountability Office suggests. This same system should be conveniently utilized to report abuse cases through its storage of all background and incidental data.

What does your school look like when the dust settles?

Let’s face it – going back to school is a drag for everyone involved. Kids whine, parents have to replace all the outgrown school clothes and fill out all the paperwork, but the school staff have it worst of all – they’re left with the kids still sluggishly getting back into their school routine AND the mass amounts of documentation that comes with them. Registration packets may seem easy from the parents’ point of view, but registrars must tap into their inner cryptologists to decipher thousands of different handwritings, make calls to summon parents who left blanks in their paperwork, and then delegate all the paperwork to the proper person or file without losing a single sheet of paper. And that’s not even the half of it.

For most school districts, school choice is decided by a complicated set of factors, not just the potential students’ residential addresses. Economic status, special or gifted education needs, older siblings already assigned to a specific building – all these reasons and more can be used to assign students to the proper building within a district. This can be a slow, tedious, error-riddled process during registration time, because secretaries and registrars must work as fast as possible to make sure every student has a seat in their school on the quickly approaching first day. Throw in all the parents who register their kids on the last acceptable day and you’ve got utter chaos.

Once the registration information has been given and the students have been delegated to their proper buildings, those enrollment documents still have a long way to go before they can rest in their folders back in the main office. Copies of medical information must be made for the nurse, who must then relay health information to cafeteria staff, athletic staff, and to specific teachers. Address information must be given to transportation, and bus routes must be made quickly and with the utmost efficiency. Teachers and aides must be given student information pertaining to any specific needs of the children under their supervision.

After the chaos of registration is over, and all the students have a seat on their bus, in their classroom, and away from any allergens in the lunchroom, the documents must be sorted into their proper homes, usually within large file cabinets near the secretary (who may be looking a little too weary for just the first day of school).

Intervention Time.

Schools using a paper-based system have become very used to the whirlwind of tasks that comes right before the onset of a new school year, but there will always be mistakes. Parents will always leave blanks on forms, secretaries will always make typos when translating parent handwriting, and paper will always tear or go missing.

So it’s time for an intervention. It’s 2016 – it’s time to go digital. There are now highly sophisticated software solutions that allow technology to handle all student data from registration information, to automation of school choice decisions, to storage of student information in an easily accessible yet intensely secure digital warehouse.

It’s too accessible and secure not to switch to digital document storing, just ask the East Baton Rouge School Parish System, who just last year had a case of confidential student files stolenby an employee and hidden for over a year – some files are still missing. It’s too inconvenient for staff not to allow parents to register their children for school online (and the parents won’t complain, either), just ask the registration staff from Millburn Township Public Schools, who have eliminated months of staff effort and manual data entry in preparing for student registration by implementing Registration Gateway. It’s too simple and honest not to ensure the fairness and equality of a school lottery process using technology, just ask the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and Public Advocates, who just this month have flagged 253 charter schools for using discriminatory admissions processes.

How can software solutions help with these processes?

Online portals can allow parents to enter registration information, including school choice preferences, which immediately becomes available for review by the secretary at the office. With thorough digital processes, parents cannot move on to the next phase of registration without filling in all information deemed necessary by the school. Handbooks can even be scanned and made available during this process, saving a few trees and ensuring that parents must go through every page and accept the school’s terms and conditions. This saves a ton of money in paper and printing costs for school districts and simultaneously gathers the signed contracts from the parents. This is just one example of the flexibility of new digital record technology. What sets certain solutions apart from cookie-cutter digital forms is whether or not this information can flow directly into the SIS.

As aforementioned, each school district has a unique way of setting the rules for their student lottery. This may be to ensure that bus routes are as efficient as possible, or to make sure that each building within a district has the same amount of students receiving free and reduced lunch. School choice automating software uses algorithms to take a district’s specific rules and apply them fairly to students entering the lottery. It assigns a “weight” to each student measured by the factors determined by the school, and this allows the system to decide in which building the student should be assigned. This prevents parents from crying foul play if their child doesn’t get their first choice. It also prevents school personnel from tampering with the fairness of the process.

Finally, record-keeping software can provide a digital warehouse where each student’s file lives – saving a lot of space in the office previously inhabited by filing cabinets. It stores every document within the system, from the photocopy of the guardian’s ID card to the photo waiver that needs signing in order to take pictures of the kids during school. In short, every piece of data that has been in paper form – report cards, detention slips, hearing and vision tests – can now be stored online. This means that piece of paper with Johnny’s allergies – the one that went from doctor to parent to secretary to school nurse to cafeteria staff to teacher and back to the file – has simply been online the whole time. No photocopying, no lost documents, no liability.

There are a thousand reasons to go digital, but only one solution to all these issues – and that would be the Gateway Suite.

Registration Gateway