- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
“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.
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.
Central Records Gateway combines school district records retention requirements into one simple to use interface spanning student, human resources, business office records and more…
SRC Solutions is excited to announce the launch of Central Records Gateway and the Central Records Solutions Program (CRSP). Central Records Gateway is an evolution of SRC Solutions award winning document management solutions and bridges the gap from Student Records to HR Records as well as Business Office Records. SRC Solutions Registration Gateway and document management solutions are in use in districts across the US.
Central Records Gateway allows school districts to create, automate and relate digital documents across multiple stakeholders, various retention schedules and ever changing archiving policies. Through the CRIV program, Central Records Gateway can expand to incorporate any current or future district document source.
To get more information about the CRSP program click here.
Student centric document sources may include Student Information Systems, Online Registration, Fee Payment, Medical, Transportation, Special Education and more…
Human Resources centric document sources may include Applicant Tracking, Online Hiring, Insurance, Background Checks, Payroll, Continuing Education Credit Management and more…
Business Office centric documents may include Accounting Software, Expense Report Management, Invoicing Systems, RFP Management and more…
What truly differentiates Central Records Gateway from any other electronic document solution is SRC Solutions dedicated efforts towards open integration with any third party document source as well as permissionable Electronic Cumulative Folder access to administrators, parents and students.
Central Records Gateway offers a four pronged approach to existing and new document collection including desktop document scanning, Multi-Function device direct scanning, direct document flow through CRSP integration and bulk document distribution direct to online folder.
To learn more about Central Records Gateway, click here.
Take Central Records Gateway for a spin simply by clicking here.
“Central Records Gateway is an all-in-one self-manageable solution for school districts. Central Records brings record management out of the file cabinets and into the hands of permissioned users making information typically trapped in forms actionable and relevant. Take one example of a student medical record. Traditionally, records have to be transferred from school to school within a district as kids age out of schools. With Central Records, the moment those students age into another school, permissions are automatically transferred to the new school medical professional. We are excited to bring this functionality to school districts and allow them to take charge of FERPA and HIPAA compliance in their records” said Patrick Maher, CEO SRC Solutions.
Central Records Gateway doesn’t stop at document management and retention. Central Records Gateway also provides an easy to use form creation tool right within the application. Once forms are completed by the parents, students, employees etc… they can be automated to go back into the central record.
Document collection, organization and retention is key but the true differentiation is security. Central Records Gateway employs sophisticated security standards which match the access already in place within school districts. There is no need to reinvent security provisioning.
Central Records Gateway also makes district to district student transfers as simple as can be with a unique records packaging feature allowing receiving districts access to specific student records from the sending district.
About SRC Solutions, Inc.
SRC Solutions, Inc. provides school districts a mechanism for positive process change. SRC Solutions, Inc. offers a suite of “Gateway” applications each designed to tackle obstacles standing in the way of the educational process.
For more information, visit http://www.src-solutions.com