Bingham said today’s student information systems must “seamlessly link to all other systems in the school or district to assist the educators and administrators in making informed decisions about each student.”

The line between student information systems and learning management systems will continue to blur in the future, he added. An SIS that will deliver more learning management functionality will become a requirement as educators look to harness the power of all of the systems they have implemented in their district.

“The future is all about the integration of best-of-breed applications that schools need to be successful,” said X2’s Holmquest. “SIS platforms may transform as schools look more and more at the total education picture, as opposed to the individual pieces. [Student information systems] started with a green screen, a database, and a few front-office users. Those days are gone; the future is about the support of all school stakeholders, administrators, support staff, teachers, parents, and students.”

Student information systems have become vital tools for driving student instruction and spurring improvement. Sixty-nine percent of districts use their SIS as their primary No Child Left Behind reporting tool, said Lee Wilson, chief executive of PCI Education and author of a 2009 market report on SIS software.

“[Pearson’s] purchase of aal is a major move in the space, because aal has the most mature integration of SIS and data warehousing capabilities of any SIS in the market that I’m aware of,” said Wilson. “Our study looked at both [market] segments, and while SIS penetration is over 98 percent, data warehousing is in less than 40 percent of the districts in the U.S. This gives Pearson a huge edge over others who have to conduct big systems integration projects to connect their SIS to a data warehouse. This is both an expense and a potential point of breakdown in the system. By having both systems seamlessly integrated, aal has been able to offer robust data management (SIS) and data mining in one package. This is what federal guidelines are leaning toward these days.”

The deal is also significant, said Wilson, because aal has typically been a very technically oriented company—sales and marketing were not a particular strength, and this limited its reach into the market.

“With Pearson’s marketing muscle behind [aal], we are probably going to see significantly more of [the company] in the coming years,” Wilson said. “To get a sense of what this means, 25 percent of IT directors were aware of PowerSchool, but only 5 percent were aware of aal. Even a newcomer like Infinite Campus was over 10 percent awareness. aal’s awareness is, in fact, almost identical to [its] market penetration—6 percent as defined by students served.”

With its acquisition of aal, Pearson now holds 34 percent of the SIS market.

“My guess (and that is all it is) is that Pearson is eyeing statewide implementations with aal,” said Wilson. “It is one of the few systems out there capable of scaling to that level (as has already been done in North Carolina). There have been noises coming out of the states that this is a direction they are going to head in both to save money and to create greater consistency of data to help with better accountability. When every district has [its] own system, it can be a real challenge to integrate the data at the state level with any confidence that you are really seeing apples to apples. Centralizing system administration should, in theory, also reduce costs, but at the expense of local control and customization.

Links:

Follett Software

X2 Development

Pearson PowerSchool

aal eSIS

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the 15 Essentials for Effective School Technology Management resource center. Access to technology is critical in helping students build key 21st-century skills for college and the workplace—and a solid information technology (IT) staff is the backbone to any well-integrated, effective school technology program.
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