A Basic Principle of Data Systems—Enter Data Once, at the Source


A Basic Principle of Data Systems—Enter Data Once, at the Source

Automating school functions using data systems should reduce “paperwork” and enable staff and students to spend more time on teaching and learning. These efforts should include eliminating any duplicate entry of data. Instead, teachers and other staff members should enter each item of data only once, after which it can be accessed by everyone in the system. And, the entry of the data should always adhere to the principle of what is called “entry at the source.”

As noted above, with the old paper attendance books the teacher would occasionally have to hand off the book to the school’s attendance secretary. The secretary would then reenter the data into the school-wide records and then send it to the district office, where it would likely be reentered again. But what if the data is entered in a computerized way at the source, in this case either by the teacher in the classroom or by a school secretary fielding absence calls? Then the entry is accomplished immediately, and all participants have the strategic benefit of instant access to a common database of current data.

In a tragic incident in 2002 a young girl in Milwaukee left her home for school but mysteriously disappeared and was never seen again. In order to help guard against this kind of incident the Milwaukee Public Schools Board of School Directors adopted a policy that early each morning the district would place automated phone calls to the homes of any missing student with an unexcused absence.
Of course, this is only possible if the district office has received timely computerized attendance data from each classroom through “entry at the source.”

The district later established a second way to take advantage of having this data, which was to place automated calls to the homes of students who had been at school initially but had unexcused absences for later periods. So, in addition to the benefit of guarding the safety of students, the use of the attendance data in this way also works to encourage better attendance.

Excerpted from Managing Technology for K-12 Learning: How Technology Can Enable School Improvement written by Jerry Schulz. The book will be published by Rowman & Littlefield in late 2017.


Bio info:


Mr. Schulz is a consultant on the use of information technology in K-12 education, local government, and nonprofit organizations. He served as the Manager of Application Development for the Milwaukee Public Schools from 2007 to 2012. He has also held information technology management positions with several local governments and nonprofits.