SUPTS. MEMO. NO. 49
March 21, 1997
|FROM:||Richard T. La Pointe
Superintendent of Public Instruction
|SUBJECT:||Student Information Management Software|
As you are probably aware, McGraw-Hill's "School System" and "Elementary School System" software products are currently in use in approximately 1,000 schools in more than 100 Virginia school divisions. These products were made available at no cost to local school divisions in 1990 to automate grade reporting, attendance, scheduling and other tasks associated with managing student information in Virginia schools. Version 7.0 of the McGraw-Hill software was shipped to school divisions last spring. This is the final version of the DOS-based software that school divisions will receive under our state contract with McGraw-Hill. We expect to be able to contract with McGraw-Hill for continued phone support for the period July 1, 1997 through June 30, 1998. We will keep you informed of our continuing efforts to provide support to software users. We will not be receiving Version 7.1 of the McGraw-Hill software. Our communications with McGraw-Hill indicate that the chief new feature of this upgrade is its utility in migrating to the Windows version of the McGraw-Hill product. We believe it is best to approach the data migration issue as part of a future, competitive procurement process. In addition, should such a competitive process be authorized, migrating to version 7.1 could lead to protests by other vendors. We are receiving a number of inquiries about the future of this initiative as localities consider upgrading their existing school and central office DOS-based computer systems. It is hoped that the enclosed document, "Questions and Answers About Virginia's Student Information Management System," will serve to answer any questions you may have. Please do not hesitate to contact Jerry Mathews via phone (804/225-2950) or VaPen (firstname.lastname@example.org) should you have additional questions. RTL/jt Enclosure: A hard copy of this memo and its attachment will be sent to the superintendent's office. Page 1 of 2 Questions and Answers About Virginia's Student Information Management System What is the student information management system? In the mid 80s, at the urging of local school divisions, the Virginia Department of Education sponsored an initiative to procure a microcomputer based software package that would serve as an acceptable alternative to the Virginia Teacher's Register for recording and reporting student enrollment and attendance data. The Department sought to obtain software that additionally would automate student scheduling, grade reporting and other functions that consumed the precious time of teachers and administrators. Funds were appropriated by the Virginia General Assembly. An acceptable product was selected through a competitive bid process, and a state license agreement was signed with Columbia Computing. Software, phone support and training were made available to all Virginia school divisions beginning in 1990. Columbia Computing was subsequently purchased by McGraw-Hill, and McGraw-Hill has continued to improve the software product since this acquisition. Today, approximately 1,000 schools in 100 school divisions are using "The School System" or "The Elementary School System" software. Schools are currently running version 7.0 of this DOS-based product. This will probably be the last version of the DOS-based product received by Virginia school divisions. Are DOS-based systems a thing of the past? By today's standards, DOS-based hardware and software are considered to be "old" technology. While this does not mean that such systems are no longer useful, it will become increasingly difficult to find support for such systems over the next 2 to 3 years. McGraw-Hill is currently introducing its new line of student information management software which is designed to run on the Windows operating system and in network environments. While we cannot predict the exact date, we expect that within two to three years, McGraw-Hill will discontinue customer support for their DOS-based product. Virginia school divisions using the DOS-based product will be able to continue using it. For school year 1997-98, the Department of Education expects to be able to contract with McGraw-Hill for continuation of phone support for version 7.0. Will the Department of Education provide the new McGraw-Hill Windows product to Virginia schools, at no cost to school divisions? McGraw-Hill does not consider their new Windows product to be an "upgrade" under our current contract for the DOS-based product. It is a totally new product. The Department of Education currently has no funding or authority to proceed to purchase a new Windows based product for Virginia schools. Such a purchase would have to be conducted in accordance with current state procurement regulations. This would be a competitive process, open to any vendor with a product meeting our requirements. There is no guarantee that McGraw-Hill would be the selected vendor. Page 2 of 2 Will the Department of Education sponsor an initiative to obtain a new software product for schools and school divisions? Our Six Year Plan for Educational Technology, adopted in August 1996 by the Virginia Board of Education, calls for upgrading our current DOS-based software. A single purchase by the Commonwealth of Virginia could result in savings of 50% - 75% when compared to the sum of individual school division purchases of a similar or identical product. New product cost estimates range from a low of four million dollars to a high of thirty million dollars for full statewide implementation. To date, the Virginia General Assembly has not appropriated funds for this purpose. If the Department of Education is directed to procure a new product on behalf of local school divisions, please be assured that we will involve local division personnel throughout the process. Our mutual objective would be to obtain the best possible product for meeting the needs of Virginia schools, at the best possible price. In the absence of a Department of Education initiative, should school divisions proceed on their own to upgrade their administrative computing technology? The Virginia Board of Education and Department of Education support and encourage local efforts to apply technology to the business of running schools and educating children. Properly applied, technology has proven its value and worth in school administration. Trained people, operating well designed and properly implemented systems can significantly enhance the performance of a school or central office. School operation and instructional management tasks that are appropriate candidates for automation, should be automated. Our human resources are too limited and too important to consume in the performance of tasks that can be handled better by machines. What are the implications if we choose to upgrade our systems now? Virginia regulations permit local school boards to "...with the approval of the Department of Education, substitute a centralized pupil accounting system in lieu of using teacher's registers." Schools planning to implement a new system for maintaining student enrollment and attendance data need to make contact with the Management Information Systems (MIS) Division, 804/225-2099. MIS staff will assist you in obtaining the necessary approval for your new system. A future state-sponsored software procurement could result in a product being made available to localities. The Department of Education cannot guarantee or predict that this will, or will not, happen. If you choose to upgrade your student information system software now, this will be at your cost. Please be assured that localities will be kept well informed of developments should they occur.