By Ty Collins
What if there were a way to streamline the many administrative tasks involved with running an educational institution?
That’s the goal of a whole host of computer programs known as School Management Software or School Management Systems (SMS). Implemented properly, these software solutions can help your school save time and simplify your daily operations.
You can think of school management software as an automation tool that simplifies many aspects of a school’s daily operations.
This includes class-related functions like setting schedules, tracking attendance, and recording grades, but can also include administrative functions like managing student tuition, disbursing faculty pay, and maintaining student records. More complex management systems might also include options for overseeing inventories, school supply orders, building maintenance, and other additional tasks.
SMS can track vital information about a school’s instructors, such as their daily routines, reports, and other activities. With enough data, management software can track teacher performance and aid in providing insights that might improve teacher effectiveness.
School management software doesn’t just benefit the faculty and staff — it also includes tools for parents and students. Many management systems offer portals for checking grades and student progress, and some even provide real-time updates and channels of communication between families and teachers.
While the specific features of an SMS might vary from platform to platform, there are a few common features that nearly every software system includes:
Student Information Management — The ability to track student information like grades, class schedules, attendance records, disciplinary actions, etc.
Staff/Faculty Management — The ability to coordinate and supervise the functions of teachers, administrative staff, and support staff.
Payment & Payroll Management — The ability to track incoming payments like tuition fees and outgoing payments like teacher and staff salaries.
Attendance Management — The ability to log the daily attendance for classes and monitor trends on tardiness and absenteeism.
Gradebook Maintenance — The ability to input and track individual student grades for homework assignments, tests, etc., along with calculating GPAs and making this information accessible to parents and families.
Schedule Maintenance — The ability to set and monitor both student and teacher schedules. Allows for an overview of each day and allows you to maximize every available hour.
Admissions Tracking — The ability to automate student registration for classes and manage a large number of applications from students .
Among these core features, the ability to manage student information is one of the most critical, as it allows staff, teachers, and parents alike to stay on top of a student’s achievements and coordinate to elevate that student’s performance if they notice a dip.
In addition, many school management systems also incorporate learning management features into their platform. Learning management systems allow you to track and deliver educational courses, typically in an online setting. As e-learning becomes more common, you can expect the integration of LMS features into SMS platforms and an increase in online-focused management features.
Using school management software can be extremely helpful when it comes to streamlining internal school operations.
By automating daily administrative processes, you can free up time for staff and teachers to concentrate on their core responsibilities. With student information in particular, centralized storage grants faculty and staff a holistic view of individual student achievement and the progress of the student body as a whole.
This, from the perspective of school staff, makes reporting on student progress a snap. With individual student data all collected in one place, compiling trends on the student body is as simple as deciding what information you want to look at.
Keeping information in a centralized hub also helps improve communication between internal departments, allowing your school to get on the same page and work toward shared goals more effectively. Communication within your school isn’t the only thing that a good SMS can improve, however. It also has the potential to facilitate communication between faculty, students, and parents.
With better access to teachers, parents can stay in the loop on their child’s academic performance, intervening when necessary to keep them on track. This is vital for younger students, who may have difficulty communicating their school progress to their parents.
Students, meanwhile, have a direct line of contact with their instructors, which is particularly helpful for high school and college-level pupils. If they need clarification on an assignment, advice on what to study, or even general class guidance, help is only a few clicks away.
For private and higher education, SMS relieves some of the burden of processing applications and admissions. School management software can handle every step of the admissions process, from inquiry to acceptance, and ensure a seamless transition for students during the enrollment process.
Finally, using an SMS improves the data security of sensitive information thanks to the cloud-based nature of most platforms. In addition, cloud-based SMS are easy to configure, come with ample customer support, and are highly adaptable thanks to periodic updates.
When evaluating various SMS for your organization, you should keep the following six questions in mind:
At minimum, whichever school management software you choose to use should have core features like the ability to track student info and reporting functionality. It’s unlikely that a minimally-functional product will suit your organization, however, so you’ll need to take a close look at available features to ensure they align with your needs.
Make a list of the challenges your school is facing in terms of administration and organization, then evaluate your potential software options based on how they enable you to meet those challenges. Remember, your SMS should help you cut manual workloads for staff and automate as many processes as possible.
Buggy software isn’t going to help you achieve your goals. If possible, you’ll want to try a demo version of the platform you intend to use so you can see whether the software is stable or not. This will help you make an informed decision about potential software choices and determine if there are any glaring issues that might dissuade you from using them.
Will it take your team a long time to get acclimated to the software you’re eyeing? If so, it may not be the best choice. Any software solution you choose should be easy for your faculty and staff to adapt to, and should fit into your current structure with minimal hassle.
Reducing the workload for teachers and staff is a definite “must” for any SMS, but you should also make sure that the one you choose also enhances the student experience. Compare your options, and see which provides the most in the way of student access to information, remote submissions, and payment for fees, tuition, etc.
There are plenty of school management software options on the market. Here are a few popular and highly-rated options to start your search with.
If you’re looking for a simple and straightforward system that still has a wide range of management features rolled into one platform, Gradelink SIS is one option that might fit the bill. This platform includes options for maintaining the curriculum, school finances, and even the cafeteria.
That’s in addition to its robust reporting and analytics features that make relaying information to parents a breeze and give you the ability to process online payments for your institution. For smaller schools looking for an easy-access, cloud-based management option, Gradelink is a strong addition to your list of choices.
Designed specifically for PK-12 schools, Rediker’s is a great option if you need a management platform that can scale and integrate with other programs like Google Classroom. School systems large and small will find it easy to manage admissions, enrollment, student reports, billing, and a host of other management tasks through either the cloud-hosted software or the Windows-based option.
Among the many SMS providers on the market, this option also stands out because of its exemplary training and customer service. In addition to allowing you to try out a free demo of the software, Rediker also provides in-person and online training, along with round-the-clock customer support.
This full-featured app for educators web-based management software covers your school admin needs from admissions to enrollment and beyond. School staff, faculty, and families alike can get an overview of critical information like academic progress, medical records, tuition, and more.
The software offers plenty in the way of gradebooks, performance analysis tools, and finance management. It also has a straightforward interface and offers excellent customer support. Institutions looking for a platform that can “do it all” will find PCR Educator to be a strong, user-friendly option.
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Ty is the head of digital acquisition and content at Calendly.
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