Friday, February 3, 2012

New Data-management Program Streamlines Record Keeping at Sorenson's Ranch School

The combination of therapeutic and academic goals common to facilities such as Sorenson’s Ranch School causes challenges not found in regular, September-to-May types of educational institutions. Our open-enrollment, individually-paced program necessitates a greater amount of flexibility and an accompanying amount of complexity. Along with this flexibility and complexity come correspondingly complex record keeping problems. To try to meet these needs, the management of SRS contracted with a computer firm in Salt Lake City to design a custom program for the school which would work in concert with the behavior management tracking software already in place.
The new program allows the school staff to have all academic records at their fingertips. Gone are the days of separate roll books, grade sheets, registration records, class change forms, and transcript files. All previous academic data is entered into the program when a new student enrolls, and this foundation information is then updated whenever a change is made at SRS. The new program automatically calculates days in class, grade point average, and credits earned. Our old system required us to type each transcript using word processing software. The new program will allow us to generate and print a transcript with a key stroke. With the old system, the monthly report card process was very labor intensive with each teacher having to manually enter the current number of days enrolled, assignments completed, grade, and comment code. Now, the only information items entered manually each time are the teacher comment codes.
The switch to the new program has not been without its problems, but such is the nature of the process when any new system is adopted. The teachers have spent many hours transferring the data from their old record keeping formats into the new program. Some of our faculty have been employees of other schools when new programs of this nature have been implemented, and they have reported that the number of glitches (or “bugs” as the computer professionals call them) with our new package has been less than what they have experienced before. Our requirements are much more complex than those schools which require only an academic data program, as ours must coordinate with our “tracker” program as well. The head programmer on our project has been very responsive to our “bug reports” and has made every effort to have us up and running in time to meet our deadline of February 1st for doing report cards for the first time on the new system.
Even though the changeover process has been very labor intensive and somewhat frustrating at times, the teachers are reporting satisfaction with the new one-place-for-everything approach. We will be adding some new features in the near future which should make it even simpler for us to meet all of our students’ needs.