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Learning Leaders Know Their Students:
The Mississippi State-wide Student Information System

January 2002

Jackson, Mississippi -- In September 2001, Mississippi launched the Mississippi Student Information System (MSIS) to track each of the 495,000 public school students from kindergarten through high school. Whether a student stays in one school district or switches schools many times, the student's record moves with them.

MSIS gives education leaders the big picture of the state's progress toward academic goals as well as detailed snapshots of progress in districts, schools and among student groups. This information will enable state and education leaders to create a top education system and a skilled workforce to compete globally for industry and jobs.

Measurable Learning
The project began with a simple question: How can we make districts and students be more accountable? The office of technology proposed a solution: a student accountability system to track both student and school achievement growth with the primary goal of improving student learning. The data could show which programs and techniques make a difference.

"Disaggregating student and school information empowers learning leaders with information to make better decisions," said Dr. Helen Soulé, Director of Educational Technology, Training and Support for the Mississippi Department of Education. "We can track students statewide to give them services they need by shining the light on every school rather than just districts."

Make It So
The state's experience in organizing grant applications to build the network infrastructure connecting Mississippi schools provided a model for implementing the MSIS. They began with an RFP and identified the elements of a student record to satisfy federal, state and local needs. The state legislature supports the project with critical funding.

The web-enabled, Oracle-based system was piloted for 5 months during the 2000-2001 school year to check compatibility and edit forms. An active email listserv and web site enabled participants to share problems and solutions.

Roll Out
Districts choose from a list of compatible software programs and implement the system locally to interface with the state program. Teachers can enter data from their classroom or a school secretary can collect the information for the site. Attendance information is uploaded monthly. Special education and severe discipline data are both uploaded daily. While schools benefit from more granular data about their progress, they also pick up the data entry burden from the districts.

"It took a lot of time at first," said Arthur Holmes, Technology Coordinator, West Bolivar School District, where they launched a system in September 2001. "The teachers and secretaries understand that the first half is the hard part. Next year, they will only have to create records for kindergartners and new students from out of state."

Better Leaders
"The power of the data is in leadership positions," said Dr. Soulé. "You need good data to have data-driven decisions. It's the focus of what Bush has talked about: leaving no child behind through accreditation and backing it up with data."

To complement the technology side of the solution, Mississippi has also launched a Technology Academy for School Leaders with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Academy uses project-based learning and authentic tasks to train teams of principals and superintendents in methods to improve teaching and supervision.

Global Competition
"We are going to do two things in Mississippi: raise the educational level and improve student skills to make us competitive in the world economic environment," said Dr. Soulé. "Since the office of technology was created in 1994, the state has benefited from a consistent group of people who understand the need to improve student achievement, not just use technology, and to make the most of every dollar."

Learn more about innovation in Mississippi: http://www.mde.k12.ms.us.