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Windows Thread, Pupil assessment database in Technical; Hi Not sure if this is the right area. Please move it if not. Currently we are using individual Excel ...
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    this_is_gav's Avatar
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    Pupil assessment database

    Hi

    Not sure if this is the right area. Please move it if not.

    Currently we are using individual Excel spreadsheets to store termly pupil assessments, converting them to point scores and various other tweaks.

    The issue is, if a problem is discovered with one spreadsheet, it affects all of them and you end up spending hours rectifying dozens of Excel files.

    Other than SIMS (which is currently admin-only in our school, and I'm not sure how flexible it would be for this anyway) is there any (preferably free) database which makes use of a nice easy front end for staff to use to input and view data (such as Excel). I'm sure some schools have a set up using an SQL database and I'm wondering if they just design their own or if there's a template around to help me get started, but Googling such things is tricky.

    I guess this sort of thing would be easy using an Access database, but SQL would surely be much better, but I've never designed an SQL database.

    Am I asking too much?
    Last edited by this_is_gav; 27th March 2012 at 03:25 PM.

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    Pete10141748's Avatar
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    We use SIMS here to store the pupil assessment data and I think one of the Deputy Head's has a spreadsheet that she spent days on end putting together to do the same job; not sure how it works where you are but here the Admin staff and that Deputy are responsible for inputting all the data - the class teachers just submit it on paper (massive waste of everyone's time, but I've gone blue in the face trying to talk them into any other way - they even pay a TA overtime to help them input the data at this point! *facepalm* ).

    Is there a reason why Sims is admin-only? Are they worried about people accessing or changing the wrong things? I know from what it was like here before that letting everyone have access to something like SIMS is a scary prospect for SLT members, but with the correct setup and permissions it just would save SO much time for everyone involved. Perhaps ask for a meeting with SLT and pitch the idea to them, focus on how it will save THEM time and hassle - they are more likely to go with it if it will benifit them in a personal-professional way.


    Failing that, can you not take the individual spreadsheets and put them together into one file, link the appropriate fields using formula so that if something is changed everything else changes accordingly? It might seem a pain but depending on how your school works a solution based on your current setup might be more acceptable to your staff.
    Last edited by Pete10141748; 27th March 2012 at 03:42 PM.

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    speckytecky (28th March 2012)

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    sparkeh's Avatar
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    Sounds like a job for SIMS to me.
    At all my schools the teachers use SIMS to enter/analyse assessment data, produce reports etc.

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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    SIMS can do this for you via the various mark sheets which can be created ... and other MIS can do similar. Remember that you can create the mark sheet in SIMS and then export it for completion by staff, then import it back in so the central record is in there ... but others are far more up to date with things than I am ... (nudges to @vikpaw and @Sivadam)

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    SIMS is great, but takes a lot of setting up. Plus it won't be free. I'm not sure what the initial licence costs but i'd imagine it's in the order of a couple of grand, and then annual upkeep of 700-1000 quid. There are loads of posts in the MIS forum regarding the assessment suite and best practises for setting it up. It is a good way to go, and yes you can import data in, but it's not massively reliable. It's easy once setup for staff to input data, but that does mean giving them access. If not to SIMS, to be able to send data in to SIMS, so maybe look at something like PARS but that again is cost.

    To stick to similar to what you have got, you could talk to 4Matrix who do data analysis, and though there is a cost, it won't be anywhere near the other two options. They may also advise you in general as a school what a good option would be. @MikeBostock (on here), writes a lot on his blogs.

    If you do decide to go down the SIMS route, giving teachers access would be the best option, and once you're using the built-in system, it has a FREE analysis tool called Discover which has nice drag and drop creation and monitoring of data, using venn diagrams and linked messaging.

    If really want you want is a simple gradebook system, there are certainly quite a few out there, google 'gradebooks', and look for ones that include some sort of analysis. They will range from free to a couple of dollars per student to fixed fee. Quite often they are web-based. I can't think of any specific names right now, and we have never truly like one so wouldn't want to steer you in any one direction. However the thing to watch out for is that they involve you manually uploading data from the MIS i.e. SIMS and maintaining it. Which is a pain. Or they will want to do it for you, and charge a bomb. Basically turning their online tool into a mini MIS.

    I just googled free gradebooks and came up with loads of things, this has a template, though it's probably geared for the US. Free Gradebook Template for Excel - New Teacher Grade Book

    It might be worth shopping around to find how you can easily modify your workflow to fit on of those systems.

    Does the FFT online or other similar systems from the LA have any sort of tools to enter grades and get points scores out?

    davidpott.com (@DavidPott on twitter) does lots of work with assessment and has lots of guides for SIMS, if you choose to go down that route, worth looking at his blog. SIMs will be the easiest way to manage the whole thing, but as i said it has cost and system setup implications.
    Last edited by vikpaw; 27th March 2012 at 04:31 PM.

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    this_is_gav (27th March 2012)

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    Sivadam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by this_is_gav View Post
    ...... Other than SIMS (which is currently admin-only in our school, and I'm not sure how flexible it would be for this anyway) .....
    Can I ask why SIMS is Admin only? SIMS in the Classroom was a slogan introduced many, many years ago!
    Any school who has SIMS installed in a school and it is not being used by teachers is missing out so much! I would suggest that you visit a school near you (preferably a SIMS Partnership School) to see exactly how much the school is missing out on!

    And as to the original question - Yes! SIMS will do exactly what you want re. Assessment Recording, Analysing and Tracking and much, much, much, more besides!
    Last edited by Sivadam; 27th March 2012 at 09:24 PM.

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    Sivadam's Avatar
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    Maybe somebody ought to move this thread into the MIS Forum. I nearly missed it and would have done so without the 'mention' from GrumbleDook!

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    this_is_gav's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sivadam View Post
    Can I ask why SIMS is Admin only? SIMS in the Classroom was a slogan introduced many, many years ago!
    Because SIMS is provided by our LEA and they lock down and isolate their admin servers to levels I'd never even consider on the curriculum side.

    I'm sure they'd set up a bridge of some description, but I think staff would want to use a system as similar to what they're used to as they can (ideally Excel would have been the front-end for a database, both for adding data and manipulating it).

    I've got access to SIMS personally, so I might have a play and see if it really is that flexible and see if it's worth looking into getting curriculum access to SIMS and pushing staff in that direction.

    @Sivadam, I did consider the MIS forum, but given that I wasn't wanting to use a SIMS-like approach, I felt a more general forum would be better suited, which was a bit silly. I guess if anything the coding section would have been better for what I was initially wanting.

    Many thanks for your help so far.
    Last edited by this_is_gav; 27th March 2012 at 10:35 PM.

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    I have spent many, many years trying to get individuals to drop Excel Spreadsheets in the waste bin and use the functionality in SIMS Assesment Manager, SIMS Performanace Analysis, SIMS Reporting and, more recently, SIMS Discover. You are missing out massively by not using these live systems! Capita even provide SIMS Tracking and Progress Grid Templates for Primary Schools, so much of the work is done for you. I cannot understand any LA who restricts the use of SIMS. It is not there as an Admin Tool! It should be a tool for teachers - with Admin offering the support behind the scenes so that the teachers can use the data to support T&L!

    The idea of manipulating dead data in Excel, when it could all be available in a 'live' system, is archaic and anathematic to me personally! (Yes I know that some schools, ourselves included, may want to take analysis to an even higher level in Excel - but I doubt you want to take it to that sort of level from what you are asking in your OP!)

    If I was in your situation (the school's that is!) I would be contacting Capita and stirring things up with the LA - something that would not be alien to me here! I wonder what relationship there is between Capita SIMS and your LA, if what you say is true!
    Last edited by Sivadam; 28th March 2012 at 08:50 AM.

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    speckytecky's Avatar
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    I asked a similar question in this thread about the Hemmings assessment package one of my teachers is keen on using and from reading the very useful answers here suspect the SIMS route is the way forward for our school as well. We had an excellent TD day by Michelle from Capita on the very subject yesterday.



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