10 things to ask about your SIS

Here are 10 things to ask about your SIS when comparing your options:

How many separate systems/logins do you have for your SIS, LMS, Enrollment, Payments, and Analytics?

What is your total cost of ownership for all systems combined?

Are all systems equally intuitive to learn?

How much time do you spend tracking missing enrollment forms and payments?

Can teachers use your system to collaborate?

Does your SIS analyze test scores to detect changes and gaps?

Do teachers find it easy to collect and grade assignments electronically?

How much time do you spend integrating data among your systems?

How many clicks does it take to do common actions?

How many hours/days does your vendor take to respond for technical support?

How to choose the BEST school management solution for your school. Part 2

6.       Parent appeal.  Are parents appreciative that registration every year is simple and stress-free?  Provide a system that streamlines the registration, webstore and tuition payment within the system.  During our parent survey, the biggest gripes were: the number of paper forms, the number of systems parents have to access for the various functions, easy to read tuition payment statements.

7.       Prospective parents. Are prospective parents receiving a good first impression of your school?  Are parents still filling out paper forms? With today’s technology, parents should not have to jump through hoops to apply to your school.  Some schools fail to remember that those prospective parents are your future clients. I don’t think more needs to be said on that.

8.       Save resources. Does your system reduce the workload for admins such as bookkeepers and registrars .  How much time is your staff spending on reconciling checks, chasing incomplete paperwork. As an exercise, let me challenge you to ask your staff how much time is spent babysitting the student application process, recommendation process, returning student registration process, manual data entry of parent information, running to make bank deposits etc. and multiply that by the average hourly wage.  Add this to the cost of your SIS.

9.       Cost. Compare apples to apples.  Systems claim an integrated system but each integration is an added cost. What was an $8 per student system ends up being a $40 per student system.  I’ve mentioned several associated costs above that should be factored into the price which should also include such things as the annual registration fee paid by parents for use of third party applications such as tuition. See Cost Calculator

10.   Most important, Try before you buy.  Many systems promise you the world but none deliver!  Would you purchase a vehicle which claims everything without a test drive?  What if there was a system out there that allowed your teachers, parents and admins to try the system so they could see how intuitive and how easy it was to navigate.   Would you be willing to give it a try?  Most companies allow you to make your decision based on a free one hour demo.  Perhaps that is good enough for your school.  Otherwise, do your due diligence and find a solution that does offer an all-inclusive, try before you buy system.

  • July 10, 2018
  • Other

Choosing the BEST school management solution for your school. Part 1

The right SIS is vital to the success of your school.  For teachers, if your current system is just a data management system that does nothing except store data then your SIS is not taking advantage of technology that provides sophisticated learning analytics that interpret this data.  For parents, if they are inconvenienced with paper and multiple apps, then your SIS’s ease-of-use to access student information, forms, online purchases, tuition is not sending a positive signal to your “clients.” For admins, if simple functions are taking a lot of time then your SIS is chewing up tons of resources and costing you more money than you think.  So in this 2 part series, we will provide 10 tips when considering shopping for a new SIS.

1.       SIS buying decisions should be based on who is going to be using it the most.  Surveys show the amount of time spent on a SIS in this order: Teachers, parents, admins.  Who is making your buying decision? Admins spend the least amount of time with a SIS; yet, the majority of the buying decisions are made by just the admins.  Teachers should be able to test how easy it is to take attendance, grade, set up curriculum testing that autogrades and more importantly give teachers feedback on students’ progress.

2.       Learning curve and user interface. Should teachers, admins need to go to user conferences to learn about the software or should it be intuitive enough to use?  There is something wrong with a system if the users organize multi-day conferences to teach each other workarounds and how-tos and schools have to pay extra for training.  Are you factoring this into your cost of the product….including the travel, hotel fare and comp time to teachers?  What if there was a system out there that was SO intuitive that they allowed you to TRY BEFORE YOU BUY?  That would immediately send a message that the setup and ease of use must be so intuitive that it doesn't require a user's conference.

3.       Teacher collaboration. Collaborative teaching improves quality instruction.  Does your system allow for this? Many systems are not flexible enough to allow the exchange of learning curriculum amongst teachers.  We know that schools perform better when teachers collaborate on teaching material, idea exchanges and brainstorming. Best ideas are garnered and work-load is reduced when the system can collaborate instructional information.

4.       The power of data.  Technology should be used to improve education.  Learning analytics should be an integrated part and not an add-on.  Does your system interpret data to give you a picture of what is working and what is not?  Data has the power to inform teachers on the effectiveness of their instruction. Integrated testing with a LMS should reveal where students are struggling, what concepts require more explanation and more importantly, quickly reveal which students need more attention.  Schools should not have to pay thousands of additional dollars for the basic requirement to properly assess student achievement.

5.       User experience.  Is the system appealing and easy to use or clunky to navigate?  Many systems were developed as desktop versions and are retrofitted to be web-based versions, making the user interface not intuitive nor user friendly.  How quickly can teachers, parents and admins access their pages?  The analogy can be a user experience when using an “OLD” GPS built-in car system vs. your mobile phone.  Which one do you end up using?

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15 ideas for every good principal

15 ideas for every good principal...

When Principals reflect on their past year, metrics are concrete ways to determine whether your year was successful or not. Data does not lie. According to 2012 MetLife.com  Teacher Survey,  Principals are most likely to say it is very important for principals to be able to use data about student performance to improve instruction (85%) and to lead development of strong teaching capacity across the school (84%) to be an effective school leader. 


Is enrollment up?

Need to increase school enrollment? Many factors may be contributing to the decline in your school enrollment.  If you would like to read our 8-part series on “How to grow school enrollment.” Click Here.

Is your student return ratio up?

Student return ratio is an indicator whether your school is doing well or not.  If the number of students leaving for no valid reason is increasing over time, it is a red-flag that something is wrong.  Are you tracking those families who are departing your school and are you asking why? Easy mechanisms such as an exit survey or registration surveys can monitor the health of your school environment.

What is the % attending college?

Parents want to know that their students will succeed.  Does your school keep these statistics for prospective families to know.

What percentage of your students are achieving your school’s curriculum standards? If you don’t know this statistic or if it’s not 100%, then your SIS is not working for you.  SIS’s should be able to handle learning analytics to give you feedback on how well your students are doing in the classroom.  This should not cost extra for this functionality.  If it is, you should consider switching SISs to one which provides this functionality.


Are teachers happy?

Teacher’s lives should be made easy.  Collaborate teaching, sharing creates teamwork, a sense of belonging and reduces work redundancies. This should be available to them.  Is your SIS able to assist in this?

Are teachers getting the support from admin?

Teachers are vital to the success of the school.  Are they part of your decision making process? For example, the student information system (SIS) is used primarily by teachers.  Yet many teachers have no say in what SIS is purchased for the school.

Are teachers happy with grading and paperwork?

Grading is a pain.  Can this process be automated and eliminate the need for paperwork?  Is your SIS capable of doing this?


Are students happy coming to school?

Happy students and happy parents are your biggest marketing tool.  Are programs available to accommodate all students, especially during recess and lunch times?

​​Do you provide a non-threatening environment for students with anti-bullying awareness? 
“One rotten apple can spoil the entire cart”.  Are you aware of bullying or need a anti-bullying hotline? 

Are you developing the “whole child”?  Are programs in place to develop the mind, body and spirit of the child.  What makes your school stand out? 

Are parents happy with the school? 
Do you keep a pulse on your parents?  Are they actively engaged and contribute to your school.  See https://ktwelveonline.us/public_site/retaining-more-families/

Is your admissions process streamlined and easy for both parents and admission staff?
If you are still on paper, you are sending a negative signal to your prospective clients.  
See https://ktwelveonline.us/public_site/increase-student-enrollment-reduce-barriers-to-entry/


Is your support staff happy?
Your support staff is the face of the school.  If a prospective family walks in and the first interaction is with a cranky front office staff, that sends a negative signal. 

Is your school running efficiently?  
Do you feel that you are spinning your wheels trying to get procedures in place.  Can you take time to think and realize many of the issues discussed can be solved with technology that will save you time and money and increase your enrollment!

Is your staff optimizing time & resources in their everyday tasks?  
Is your SIS really working for you or are you working for your SIS?  If your SIS is not working for you, or you think it’s too expensive, 

See 10 things to ask about your SIS.

  • July 9, 2018
  • Other

Summer Break is not for Principals

Students and teachers alike look forward to the end of the school year. Time off, trips to the beach, vacations, and the pure simplicity of just doing nothing. But for a school principal, the end of a school year means turning another page and starting all over again. A principal’s job doesn’t stop at the end of the school year. Good principals spend their summers reflecting on the past year and searching for new ideas and making improvements for the upcoming school year.

In a MetLife 2012 Teacher Survey, 9 in 10 (89%) principals say that ultimately a principal should be held accountable for everything that happens to the children in a school; 74% of teachers agree in 2012, compared with 60% in 1989. So, how are you tracking?

We talked to several principals to find out how they spend their summer break preparing for the new school year. 

Here are a few of their responses:

  • -- Meet with teachers and conduct evaluations.
  • -- Implement new systems or try a school management system to see if it meets their needs .
  • --​ Review what worked, what didn’t, what new changes to implement for the next school year.
  • -- Review the school handbook and determine what policies/procedures need to be updated.
  • -- Meet with the Superintendent / Board to ensure we are aware of any changes for the upcoming school year.
  • -- Classroom management is often conducted during the summer with principals having to determine the optimal student to teacher ratio, number of classrooms for each grade, etc.
  • -- Hiring new teachers or interviewing for staffing positions.
  • -- Designing curriculum changes, especially when incorporating common core standards.
  • -- Communicating with teachers and admin staff. It’s helpful to communicate your expectations for the upcoming school year so that your staff can share your vision and everyone is on the same page.

Contrary to popular belief, principals do not get a summer break. As a principal, no matter how your previous school year went, there is always room for improvement and an opportunity to make a fresh new start. Before you know it, it will be the first day of school….AGAIN!

15 questions every good principal asks.

15 questions every good principal asks.

Summertime is a good time to evaluate your school.  What worked, what didn’t, what new changes to implement for the next school year? Here are 15 questions to think about...

School Reflections


Is enrollment up?

Is your student return ratio up?

What is the % of students attending college?

What percentage of your students are achieving your school’s curriculum standards?


Are teachers happy?

Are teachers getting the support from admin?

Are teachers happy with grading and paperwork?

Are your admissions process streamlined and easy for both parents and admission staff?


Are students happy coming to school?

Do you provide a non-threatening environment for students with anti-bullying awareness?

Are you developing the “whole child”?

Are parents happy with the school?


Is your support staff happy?

Is your school running efficiently?

Is your staff optimizing time & resources in their everyday tasks?

If you answered “NO” or “I DON’T KNOW” to any of these questions, here are some ideas to consider.

  • July 5, 2018
  • Other

Increase Student Enrollment and Retention- Building Trusting Relationships


Hack #7

Building Trusting Relationships

After reaching the HUGE milestone of actively generating foot traffic to your school, it’s important to keep up the momentum.  It is key to continue communicating to prospective families as they progress in their decision making process. It goes without saying that this is an important and very sensitive exchange.  For both practical and polite reasons, no one wants to be harassed as to where they stand on a decision. At the same time, you won’t want to be overly passive as you may miss an opportunity.

In the posts on INTERNAL and EXTERNAL promotion, we noted the importance of recording data on prospective families and what features about your school might resonate with them and influence their decision. Topics can range from educational models, before and after child care, music, arts, theater, sports, doctrine, safety, class size.  The list can go on and on. As those key items are identified, they can be used as warm opportunities to extend invitations to those prospective families.

Many scenarios can be identified and leveraged:

  • School band concerts provide opportunity to reconnect with those interested in music

  • School art shows provide opportunity to reconnect with those interested in art

  • Open Houses provide opportunity for those to meet with teachers to discuss education models

  • New financial aid opportunities allow you to quickly connect with those who have expressed financial difficulty

  • Fun family events provide opportunity for prospective families to get a taste of the school “culture” and interact with your “cheerleaders”

  • Parent education or workshops hosted by your parent organization show your prospective families that your parents are active and engaged.

  • College recruiting workshops provide opportunity for prospective families to realize your long term objective for your students

In all of these scenarios, by recording this data and making it actionable and personal, you are able to provide a great service to not only current families but prospective families.  This genuine approach positions you to execute enrollment plans with a feeling of confidence that your efforts to provide service to families takes precedence over the implication or concern that your efforts are invasive.

To say that everyone will be overwhelmed by your effort to service would be false. However, building your plan from a service mindset will effectively demonstrate the value of your school to prospective families in a truly genuine way.

Increase Student Enrollment and Retention- Retaining More Families


Hack #8

Retain More Families

A key component to overall enrollment growth is retention.  The more students that you are able to retain year after year, the greater your potential to continue growing as opposed to staying even or declining. Someone once said, “It is easier to keep a seat that fill a seat!”  We couldn’t agree more. How do your parents’ feel about your school?

Our final hack, involves retaining families by establishing a feedback loop.  Such an effort allows leaders to gain insights into individual family concerns and how your school can address those concerns prior to families exploring alternative options.

Many neglect this critical area as in many cases, retention sometimes can feel that it requires little attention beyond sending a notice to families on key deadlines and basic expectations.  Early knowledge of families’ satisfaction and intentions can greatly enhance the ability of school leaders to quickly address concerns and continue providing a top quality education and environment.

Are there processes in place for your parents to provide constructive criticism without experiencing a backlash? Do your parents feel that their opinions matter?  Besides an anonymous suggestion box for ideas, a great way to understand the ongoing needs of your families is to develop and implement a survey program. Perhaps a survey that is linked with their annual enrollment and registration will provide feedback from parents as to what they feel very strongly about.  Although the anonymous suggestion box is good for those parents who may feel threatened and singled out by their comments, a survey associated with a student is more meaningful; because if there is a legitimate concern, leadership should be involved and the issue remedied directly with the parent in a timely manner.  When a parent knows that the school took the time to resolve their issue, they become advocates and cheerleaders for the school.

There are many different ways to design and execute a retention program.  A streamlined way would be to incorporate a survey into your re-enrollment process. The video below demonstrates a great retention program framework.


Increase Student Enrollment- Reduce Barriers to Entry


Hack #6

Reduce Barriers to Entry

With robust marketing activities in place, we are positioned to address the aspects of the enrollment operation that can deter prospective families and applicants.  Hack #6 involves reducing the barriers to entry.

With robust marketing activities in place, we are positioned to address the aspects of the enrollment operation that can deter prospective families and applicants.  Hack #6 involves reducing the barriers to entry.

With the explosion of charter schools, many private schools have experienced a decrease in applications and enrollment.  For some parents, the mission, philosophy, and reputation of your private school is sufficient reason for sending their children to your school, but for many other parents, reservations can include: the cost of a private school education, qualifications of teachers, lack of resources, outside impressions, unflattering online presence, cumbersome application processes and outdated facilities or programs. So the question is how do private schools compete with this new rising “public charter school” alternative?

As we outlined in identifying your strengths and weaknesses, it was noted that one of the most important things private schools need to do is highlight strengths to demonstrate to prospective families that your school is right for them.  Having a structure in place to directly discuss the needs of families is optimal but, what if families do not visit as a result of one of the reservations stated above? In this edition, we’ll provide some tangible ways to reduce some of the more common barriers to entry.  

Professional Online Presence

In Hack #2:Know your Audience Part 1 - External Promotion we discussed the importance of knowing your audience and determining if your audience is able to find you.  Expanding on this concept, once your audience is able to locate you, it is important that you present them with a mindful professional experience.  Social media pages should strictly consist of postings relevant school activities and should reflect the spirit of your school community well. Most importantly, your website should communicate a professional presence.  Beyond simple grammar and clarity, the online experience you guide visitors through should clearly and comfortably showcase items of interest including admissions procedures, tuition information, event calendars and staff/leadership listings.  As people reach pages of interest, it is important to provided digital touchpoints to submit information or reach out for assistance. Too often, school websites go many years without significant updates or redesign and without modern tools, visitors are forced to receive information in fragments and often have to take extra, manual steps to receive responses or answers to questions.  When evaluating your web site, imagine what an appealing journey would look like and work to apply those features to ensure an optimal visitor experience that promotes high value inquiries.

Perception of Exclusivity

A common perception of non-public schools is that they can often be elitist and unsympathetic to the needs of students/families that lack a high level of expendable income.  While private schools correctly desire to be viewed as high quality and exceptional, the idea of being overly exclusive can overshadow the exceptionalism. As we laid out in Hack #3: Know your Audience Part 2 - Internal Promotion, to combat this misconception, it is important to communicate clearly through your marketing efforts that yours is an open, welcoming environment where all families are encouraged to participate.


Building on the concept of professionalism and welcoming, as families inquire about your school either through digital means or via in-person events, it is essential to respond and follow up on their questions and needs in a timely manner.  As parents evaluate the best schools for their children, they require a great deal of trust in the leadership and operation of the school. If school leaders are not timely in their responses, it is very easy for that poor impression to lead to disinterest in your school.

Streamlined, Secure Application Process.

The application process can be daunting for new families. .  How is your application process from the parents’ perspective? Is your school asking parents to “jump through hoops” or complete manual paper work?  This is an immediate red flag to parents. Hack #2, Understanding Your Audience characterized your “customer”. Old processes and forms for new generations of parents are regarded as archaic and unacceptable.  Consider turnkey systems like K-12 online, infosnap and registration gateway to name a few, that not only do your applications and re-registrations online, but will also be able to handle all your forms, recommendations, tuition and other payments during the process.  While there are costs to consider, streamlined processes, including the recommendation process, not only presents a professional online presence and conveys to the parent that your technology is state-of-the-art, but that you value your parents’ time and want to ensure that interaction with your school is managed as efficiently as possible.  Studies have shown that parents prefer the convenience of online payment for fees, items and tuition and also prefer automated tuition processes. For a live example of how this can be achieved at your school, see K-12 Online’s sandbox site and test drive their “new student” application process.

Living your Mission Statement

Another common pain point that parents raise is the complexity of the tuition payment process.  We often hear frustrations that it is difficult to know what parents are paying for, tuition charges are not transparent, or that the management company is insensitive to parents’ current circumstances when it comes to late payments.  Contracting your tuition management out to a third party has its pros and cons. The benefit is it relieves the school of the collection process, being the “bad guy” and it is “free” to the school. By removing direct contact with the school office, some of the human element about your schools relationships with families can be negatively impacted.  By prioritizing a more personal and compassionate approach, both families and schools benefit. Issues can be worked out quickly and efficiently, fulfilling the school’s mission of providing a caring environment.

By critically examining and employing remedies to potential barriers to entry, school leaders can greatly mitigate the risk resulting from poor process and presentation and ensure marketing and enrollment operations are producing the optimal return on effort.

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