A new computerized system providing Mississippi schools with information about the state’s students began operating in October. The Mississippi Student Information System, known as M-SIS, will provide educators with key information about new students without a long wait.

“It really helps us to get immediate information,” said McComb Otken Elementary Principal Rebecca Morgan. “[Until] now, the process [has been] very slow. You can wait on records for weeks. And things get lost in the mail.”

Morgan cited a case in which a parent tried to enroll a new student in the wrong grade. “Sometimes I’m not sure if it’s intentional, or if it’s because the child wasn’t living with them at the time and they didn’t know he failed,” she said. With the new system, “you can make sure the child was actually a first-grader.”

McComb is one of nine school districts that have begun transmitting student data to the state Department of Education via computers. The other eight are the districts in Lafayette, Hancock, Carroll, Tishomingo, Lee, and Jackson counties, and the cities of Pontotoc and Tupelo.

By the end of October, all 149 districts and three agricultural high schools were to have sent data that included student schedules to the department as part of the first batch of electronically sent reports.

This time next year, if all goes well, the old paper reports will be obsolete, said Nathan Slater, director of management information systems for the state Department of Education.

The new system will allow schools to send each other basic student information, such as course schedules and state test scores. The system also will benefit the Department of Education and local districts by giving state officials more accurate information on which to base budget requests and a host of other policy issues.

All the data are being gathered in a central clearinghouse handled by the Department of Education. But only authorized people will have access to certain information, Slater said. For instance, state officials won’t have access to student grades by name, because there is no need for them to see that, Slater said. They will be able to gather a grouping of data to check school attendance rates, graduation rates, and a slew of other statistical information, he said.