In the search for a new SIS, I consulted many sources in order to narrow down a final choice: Alma.
I selected Alma after reading reviews on EdTech, listening to an interview with their CEO, and examining their compatibility with current technology in Regina Public, namely Google Apps for Education. Further research on other tech-related websites shows that Alma is emerging as a competitor in the field of SIS.
I believe that Alma provides a genuine alternative for PowerSchool in terms of corporate responsibility, support, and potentially cost. I contacted both PowerSchool and Alma for an estimate, stating I was writing a paper comparing Student Information Systems. I sent both emails on July 11. I received a reply from Alma with an approximate cost, as indicated in the “letter” to the Minister. I have yet to receive a reply from PowerSchool, despite follow up emails on July 20, and 23.
If this were a real life scenario, I would collaborate with many levels of education: teachers, parents, administrators, guidance counselors, students, superintendents, and the Ministry.
Teachers need to include input as they are the ones that will be utilizing the system the most. Teachers use SIS every day, multiple times a day. The new system should be accessible and have minimal downtime.
Parents need to be consulted as this will directly impact how they access their children’s attendance and progress in school. The new system chosen should be easy to navigate with a minimal learning curve so that parents are not frustrated by the system.
Administrators have a unique perspective when accessing a student information system. They use it to access marks and attendance, similar to a teacher, but they also use it in order to build schedules, track student movement across the division, and to interface with the Ministry.
Guidance counselors use the system in a similar manner to administrators in that they track a student’s progress toward graduation and also need access to personal data in order to help a student.
Students should be polled to find out how and why they use an SIS. The SIS is, at the end of the day, designed for students so their thoughts should be included in the process. Elementary school students’ use is very different from high school students’ use, so the new system should be responsive to a wide variety of student needs.
Superintendents should be consulted, not because they necessarily use it, but because they are aware of the costs of integration and of breaking contracts. Superintendents have the most wide view of usage of a system and may have a more historical view on a change of this magnitude.
Finally, the Ministry of Education needs to be consulted, as at the end of the day, the Ministry is who employs everyone. The Ministry is ultimately in charge of all students and all final, legal reporting involving transcripts and student data. Any new system needs to be able to work with current software so that a changeover would be seamless.
For this change, I believe that all stakeholders will benefit, in the long term. By removing any association with such a problematic company can only help with the sense of community and aid in the cause of social justice within Regina Public. It is an opportunity to become a provincial leader in a sense by rejecting what is considered the norm and embracing a more “leftist” position.
I feel that by stating this as the objective in the change, there will be many, many people who will see this change as necessary for the cause of public education. The majority of supporters will already have an explicit understanding of Critical Theory, though many will have an implicit understanding: they know what constitutes good, equal teaching, though they may not have the vocabulary of Critical Theory to express it. It is from here that I would derive the base of support for the change. I believe that they would be champions for the change and would help campaign to assist the transition with detractors.