School Leaders Ask for Better Data on Parent Engagement: SIS Survey

on November 20, 2018 in SIS, Analytics

We surveyed 180 K-12 leaders about their successes and struggles with retrieving meaningful data from their Student Information Systems. Full results will be released in 2019; however, here's a preview of the top wishlist items that educators wished their SIS would support in the future.

The respondents used eight common SIS products, and their most desired items included the following:


  1. Better data on parent engagement (58%)
  2. Built-in online registration for parents (45%)
  3. Provide more holistic data on students (44%)
    • Assessment performance/Academics
    • Behavior tracking
    • Attendance/Absenteeism
  4. Fewer spreadsheets, more visualized data (37%)
  5. Make state reporting easier (37%)

Many SIS products have released their own integrated Online Registration features (#2 request), eliminating one redundant system/expense for their districts. However, fewer providers have taken on the top request for better metrics on parent engagement. That, however, could also be changing.

Visualizing Parent Engagement Data

Under ESSA, many districts are formulating strategic parent and family engagement plans with hopes of improving attendance, reducing behavior incidents, and supporting academic success.

Unfortunately, there is often a lack of readily-available data to guide and monitor these efforts. Although SIS platforms warehouse vast amounts of data, some of the best insights go undiscovered by administrators too busy to pore through raw PDF or spreadsheet reports.

Some key metrics should be easy for any SIS to provide, like logins to the parent portal to indicate whether parents are monitoring grades, attendance, and teacher comments. Some systems, like the OnCourse SIS, have tossed old-school PDF reports in favor of an interactive analytics dashboard for viewing parent and student logins. On this dashboard, administrators can view login trends over time, or by subgroups (by ethnicity, by grade level, by gender, etc.)


To paint a more holistic picture (the 3rd ranked request in this survey) the OnCourse SIS also visualizes dozens of key metrics like chronic absenteeism, bullying, and classroom grades.


Visually compelling data views, like the ones shown here in OnCourse Analytics, can be a powerful tool for building the awareness and buy-in needed to set large-scale improvements in motion.

Sharing Data to Boost Parent Ownership

One compelling example of effective data use is the Challenge 5 program implemented by Grand Rapids Public Schools. After crunching massive amounts of attendance data, they discovered a bigger chronic absenteeism issue than they realized.

The GRPS staff developed a catchy slogan encouraging families to stay below five absences ("Strive for Five!") and designed giant posters to educate parents on the achievement-suppressing effect of chronic absenteeism. According to NPR's story on this project, "What One District's Data Mining Did for Chronic Absence", the staff also used leaderboards to demonstrate to parents which grade levels and classes were the most affected.

chronic-absenteeism-grade'Absences by grade level' dashboard in OnCourse Analytics

The resulting awareness and ownership, coupled with a rigorous outreach program, led to 3600 students being lifted out of "chronically absent" status.

What data views do you wish your Student Information System could provide? E-mail me at and your suggestion may end up in the final 2019 report.