Chicago Public Schools is not the only district that is converting to a new student information system. Districts across the country are dumping outdated systems and adopting software better suited to collecting and analyzing data required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The law requires districts to report data such as race and special education status for individual students.

“Districts are expected to manipulate and manage data in ways that the [old] mainframe systems made impossible, or certainly very tedious,” observes Ann Flynn of the National School Boards Association.

CPS’ Robert Runcie says No Child Left Behind wasn’t the motivator in Chicago, which already has the ability to track individual student data. The district had simply outgrown its 1960s mainframe system and was wasting time on bureaucratic paperwork other districts had long since scrapped, Runcie explains.

Meanwhile, state boards of education are also converting their student information systems. The Illinois State Board of Education is switching to a system that will allow it to track the academic progress of individual students, even if they switch districts.

The conversion will give Illinois the option to apply for a U.S. Department of Education program that evaluates state progress toward NCLB achievement goals based on student growth in test scores, rather than overall scores. A state task force is looking into that option, according to a spokesman.

Tennessee, North Carolina, Delaware, Arkansas and Florida recently became the first states to take part in the program.

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