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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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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.

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.

Ensuring Unbiased Admissions Processes

Ensuring Unbiased Admissions Process for Public and Charter School Districts

Charter schools and public schools have recently been under scrutiny to ensure that their admissions process is legitimately allowing students of all backgrounds and situations a fair shot at enrollment within their districts. Setting the rules for a fair enrollment process can be very simple task, but enforcing those rules and providing transparency can be a challenge with paper processes.  Without leveraging technology, school lottery processes can be subject to questioning from parents and school protocol monitoring committees. So the question to be answered is: How does a school district or charter school ensure that their admissions process is securely unbiased?

  1. Unfair admissions processes are very common.

According to the L.A. Times, “253 California charter schools are currently flagged for discriminatory admissions practices in a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and Public Advocates.” The factors that have been measured in order to identify these districts include bias against English language learners, mandates for parents, auditions and academic performance. State law in California requires that charter schools take in all students, therefore deterring any child from a charter school education is unlawful on any grounds. While states have different laws pertaining to how public and charter schools must implement their enrollment process, each district or charter must fairly impose those laws and act in accordance with their own state’s laws.

 

2. What happens when a school system foregoes a rigorously regulated admissions process?

Nepotism and favoritism are running rampant in school systems neglecting to technologically ensure the fairness of their admissions process. In New Orleans, where residence is not a factor in deciding the placement of any student, only 7 public schools have opted out of the common admissions process which ensures equality for prospective students. Using a singular online registration form, the two New Orleans school systems have been able to fairly divide proportionate amounts of gifted (avg. 7% per school), special education (11%), economically disadvantaged (85%) and white students (7%) (Source: Louisiana Department of Education). Only seven schools have neglected to utilize the common application, and three of these schools have vastly disproportionate statistics, accepting mainly white and gifted students and only 21-61% economically disadvantaged students and 4-8% of special education. These three schools have been accused of cherry picking through applications by imposing an admissions process with a “unique set of requirements so complicated that parents have to make spreadsheets to keep track of the steps”, which includes hand-delivering an physical application during school business hours (Times-Picayune, 2016).

3. How can the right technology help this situation?

Parents and students deserve transparency when it comes to applying for schools. School systems deserve a lottery process that graces both staff and students with respect and equality. This prevents their methods from being criticized and the community from reproaching the school’s reputation. Efficient school choice software solutions allow a school district to tailor the enrollment process in accordance with state and local laws as well as school policy. With a digital lottery process in place, potential students should have the ability to apply for admission online, with the opportunity to rank their choice buildings within one district. This is the closest anyone should be able to come to tilting the scales in this process, and when everyone is able to do it – it’s fair. Once the rules of this technological admissions process are put in place by the district, the algorithms can impartially determine a “weight” for each student, based on factors such as free and reduced lunch needs or the presence of siblings in a particular school, and assign them proportionately into the correct school buildings. This prevents parents from claiming favoritism and prevents any negative allegations for the school district. Humans will always act out of self-interest, but technology can achieve the objectivism necessary to ensure unbiased admissions processes.

4 benefits automated data sharing can have for your schools

Schools are mandated by law to frequently share student information with parents for a myriad of different reasons, from permission slips to vaccination records. Regardless of the reason, schools should have a cost-efficient and reliable system in place to ensure files are delivered securely and on time. As managing paper records and using traditional mailing methods to send these important documents can be expensive and risky, districts will benefit from implementing an electronic data sharing solution. Here are four of the benefits most schools see after digitizing their data sharing strategies.

1. Comply with FERPA
Schools must adhere to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which requires that schools provide access to documents no longer than 45 days after parents or students have requested them. When administrators rely on traditional mailing and have to gather the appropriate student data from a sea of paperwork, they’re at risk of failing to deliver the files within this time frame. This is especially true if administrators haven’t been efficient with updating the student records with new data. If they aren’t able to provide the information within the set time period, they may also be at risk of losing government and state funding.

Systems such as ParentShare Gateway and Central Records Gateway are able to automate access and/or electronically deliver student reports and documents. Schools don’t have to worry about forms taking too long in the mail. It’s also easy to add new information and reports to existing records. After all, timely delivery is only half the battle when it comes to adhering to FERPA, as student data must be entirely accurate. Online student solutions ensure this is possible before and after the requested information is shared with parents.

Sharing digital files eliminates many of the risks associated with mailing paper documents to parents.Sharing digital files eliminates many of the risks associated with mailing paper documents to parents.

“Paper records have traditionally been considered accurate, although not necessarily complete or accessible,” explained the National Center for Education Statistics. “Maintaining data quality as information is shared, analyzed and reported is a characteristic of a well-designed [online] system.”

2. Engage parents
According to research conducted by the Community Preventive Services Task Force, when parents are involved in their children’s academic performance, students do better in school and are even healthier overall. However, mailing key information, such as progress reports, puts this data at risk of being lost or not being shared with parents. When these files are delivered electronically to parents’ email addresses, these risks are eliminated. This ultimately enhances communication between parents, their children and the school.

Research has shown that parent engagement doesn’t only benefit students. It’s also found that teachers and principals are more likely to have higher morale and an increase in job satisfaction, according to 2010 research article  “Home-School Relations: Working Successfully with Parents and Families” by Dr. Glen Olsen and Dr. Mary Lou Fuller. The research also pointed to the fact that schools that strive for good parent-teacher relationships also establish better reputations among the community and have higher-quality school programs compared to schools without engaged parents.

“Printing and mailing can end up costing your schools thousands of dollars.”

3. Save on costs
There are a number of ways in which schools save when they implement an automated student data sharing system. Santa Rose City Schools in California, for example, recently reported that it costs them about $2,500 to mail one round of report cards to parents, according to The Press Democrat. Printing and mailing can end up costing your schools thousands of dollars that could be spent on student programs and other important investments.

Online data sharing solutions also free up staff members who would be organizing and mailing paperwork, allowing them to take on other tasks. Electronic file sharing also mitigates the risk of losing funding as a result of failure to comply with FERPA.

4. Secure transfers
When sensitive student data is sent through the mail, it’s always at risk of getting lost or winding up in the wrong hands. ParentShare Gateway features password protection so only authorized school personnel, students and parents can gain access. This is essential as schools work to comply to privacy regulations like FERPA and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Central Records Gateway expands on the secure collection of student documents by making all information pertaining to each child individually and constantly accessible to their guardian through an online password-protected portal.

FERPA: Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

Adhering to FERPA: How to ensure proper access to student files

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is a federal law that gives students over 18 years old and their parents the right to request access to their children’s academic records. To adhere to this regulation, schools must provide this access, ensure students or parents are able to amend their records and have some control over the disclosure of identifiable data from these records.

Many schools experience difficulty adhering to FERPA, as maintaining accurate and up-to-date student data can be challenging with paper records. Finding a balance between providing timely access to these records and ensuring that they aren’t viewed by anyone who doesn’t have permission to see them can be hard without a secure system. Use these tips as a guide for your schools as they work to adhere to FERPA.

1. Ensure your data is clean and organized
If your staff fails to update student files when necessary or isn’t careful to avoid entering inaccurate data onto important documents, there’s going to be a major problem when parents request their children’s files. Your schools have 45 days to provide parents or students access to the documents. They shouldn’t be scrambling to fix incorrect or outdated information or rummaging through a warehouse full of paper documents to try to find the requested forms. Organization and proper file maintenance are key to being able to provide timely access to student files. If your schools find that they aren’t able to get everything together or provide files that contain outdated data, they will fail under FERPA and be subject to costly penalties.

It’s especially crucial for schools to stay organized when they have to share student information with third parties. Schools must receive consent from the students or parents before sharing records. They should provide as much detail as possible when requesting this permission to ensure there are no surprises on the student’s end and that they aren’t at risk of any penalties under FERPA.

“Specify the records to be released, state the reason for releasing the record and identify the group or groups of people who will receive the information when obtaining the consent of a parent or eligible student to release education records to a third party,” suggested the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

2. Educate your staff and parents
It’s not entirely up to school administrators to maintain the security of student documents and ensure they can easily be accessed. This is also in the hands of the teachers. It’s essential that the educators throughout your schools have been kept up to date on FERPA requirements, including any changes that have been made to the law throughout the years. Start by training them on the basics of the regulation.

Inform teachers on how to handle student papers that they want to dispose of at the end of the semester. For example, if the educator throws a note written to him by one of his student’s parents about academic progress in the garbage and other students find it, this could present a major legal issue. Have them shred any papers that contain personally identifiable information.

Keeping parents and students informed of their rights under FERPA is an important aspect of ensuring student documents are accessible and protected. If you fail to send out an annual notification regarding their rights to amend, review and determine nondisclosure of documents, this could present problems for your schools.

3. Avoid risky procedures
When your staff is tasked with maintaining paper student records, the chances they’ll unintentionally be misplaced or lost drastically increases. Once they’re misplaced or filed in the wrong cabinet, sensitive forms can easily end up in the wrong hands, such as those of a student or a staff member who doesn’t have permission to view these documents. Mailing or faxing records to new schools if students transfer is also a risky process that leaves plenty of room for problems.

According to 2013 statistics from leading provider of global identity protection and fraud detection technologies, CSIdentity, education facilities accounted for almost 10 percent of all of the security breaches in the U.S. The research also found that the root of this problem was due to the fact that schools were sending sensitive student information through unsecured email, which can easily be hacked. In order to protect and provide safe access to student records, schools will need to store and send this valuable information through trusted online school software.

4. Update your system
Online school solutions are key to safely maintaining, storing and sending important student files to authorized personnel. School software like SRC Solution’s Central Records Gateway ensures teachers and administrators aren’t at risk of losing or misplacing files. Meanwhile, solutions such as the ParentShare Gateway enable student documents to be sent to appropriate recipients safely with a granular security permissions setting and quickly with preset delivery times. Digitalizing your student records with secure and reliable systems like these is essential to meeting compliancy standards like FERPA by making student documents more readily available to parents and students and protecting data from security breaches.

How Electronic Cumulative Folders can Save a School District Thousands of Dollars a Year

A paperless solution is the singular answer to a myriad of paper-based problems. 

With an average cost of $0.02 per sheet of paper, it’s a common misconception that the paper route is the cheapest way to run an office. For some offices with very low paper needs, this may be true, but for offices that have to keep an excessive amount of paper on file, more than just the cost of paper has to be taken into account. That $0.02 adds up so quickly, that the original price of the single piece of paper isn’t nearly as shocking as the end result. For example, if a public school district has 5,000 students (as at least 701 American school districts do), and each student has 20 pieces of paper in their file, the total cost of paper in those files is $2,000. Now let’s say the school secretary has to make two copies of each piece of paper in every student’s file: one for their teacher and one to send home to their parents. The total cost is now $6,000 in just paper. And where are those files kept? Manila folders, which cost on average $10 per box of 100. So let’s calculate the cost for 2 folders per student (since the school nurse, the teachers, and the school nurse probably all need folders as well) – $1,000.

While this example uses basic math to prove a point – the actual research, done by Mandy Haggith, an environmental activist with a specialty in tree preservation, states that the average U.S. office worker uses 10,000 pieces of paper a year. So let’s go back to the basic math, and say that this public school with 5,000 students has 20 administrators, 227  teachers (which would serve 22 students per classroom), and 5 secretaries, and 2 nurses, and they each only use 1,000 pieces of paper a year. The total cost of paper usage for one year, based on Haggith’s research, would be $5,800, and keep in mind that this example touts a relatively small school district and a small number of employees. 

The price of paper includes a lot more than just the cost of the reams.  Let’s not forget about refill printing supplies, acquiring and accommodating filing cabinets, folders, extra storage space at a warehouse for old files, and of course, paying for the labor involved with making copies, filing, locating misplaced files, and re-creating lost documents. The cost of toner alone for a laser-jet printer is around $75 a cartridge, which will print around 2,000 pages – meaning for the example at hand an office would need to spend at least $9,525 a year on just the toner for the staff’s printing needs (254 employees). Let’s hope those printers don’t break down and cost more money in repairs.

Storage is a much heftier expense. A five drawer filing cabinet of fine quality can cost an office around $500.  “The average filing cabinet uses 15.7 square feet, and the current U.S. average cost of office space is $15–$20 per square foot, so you’re paying roughly $236–$314 per filing cabinet solely for the real estate it consumes. Current estimates show that 50–70% of space in an office is still dedicated to filing and storage of documentation,” (McCorry, 2009). Studies also show that over 45% of the files in those cabinets are duplicated information, and 80% is never accessed again. These files are simply detained in case of legal liability and compliance. And when those files are needed in order to respond to a lawsuit or to adhere to a FERPA situation (for a school district), often the searcher finds that the necessary documents have been misplaced or misfiled. 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. IDC Research estimated that the typical enterprise with 1,000 workers wasted $2.5 to $3.5 million per year searching for information and re-creating lost documents. The point we’ve been getting at is that not only are these exorbitant storage costs easily erased, so are the mistakes and mishaps that come along with paper files. The redundant amount of copies upon copies that are printed for records and distribution can exist safely and accessibly in a single place within paperless filing software – like Electronic Cumulative Folders.

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A paperless solution is the singular answer to a myriad of paper-based problems. Online filing systems, like Central Records Gateway from SRC Solutions, Inc., equipped with Electronic Cumulative Folders s eliminates the issues mentioned, and many more for the price of $3.00 per student, employee, or case folder. Let’s go back to our first example, the small school with 5,000 students. Suddenly the cost of paper, copies, printer needs, storage space, and staff labor comes to a mere $15,000, total by replacing all the supplies and manual labor associated with a paper-based system with an automated digital filing system. Our sample school here would have saved $12,076 by paying the cost of Central Records Gateway instead. The ROI keeps on rising when you realize that the paper, folders, and staff time ($12,800) would be saved each and every year after the implementation of Electronic Cumulative Folders. Eliminate the cost of paper files, the cost of copying paper to distribute within the office and to parents or clients, eliminate the time and effort it takes staff to file documents and then dig them back up, eliminate the frequency that the office must repair printers and replace their toner and ink, and eliminate the cost of storage space inside and outside the office with Electronic Cumulative Folders. This solution can be utilized by more than just school offices, it can also serve the needs of any HR department, law office, and other types of business offices. Schedule a demonstration today by emailing sales@src-solutions.com.

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