Digital Student Report Card Systems

These systems are traditional software or online-based programs that provide reporting tools for grades or other progress information about students to parents or guardians. Most digital report card systems provide a choice of printing pre-formatted paper report cards, or delivering the information through websites or e-mail. A number of commercial vendors provide grade reporting software, while some larger school districts are developing them in-house.

Commercially available systems

Instructional management systems such as TeacherEase provide report card systems as part of a larger suite of software modules. The TeacherEase system provides traditional report cards (with little modification required) or highly-customizable progress reports which can score and report standards-based data. These report cards interface seamlessly with gradebook and attendance data pulled from the main system.

Many school districts around the country; Fayetteville Public School in Arkansas, Broward County Schools in Florida, Poudre School District in Colorado to mention a few, have made student grades available online with dedicated gradebook software like the offerings from Excelsior Software and their Pinnacle Grade Viewer and Gradebook2 products. The teachers are asked to submit the grades through the software to the district and then the company maintains the database and allows districts to query and pull reports based upon the database information. In many instances the teachers can set up the grade book for not only final semester or quarterly grades but also daily activity grades. The system for the parents works through an online access where they enter their childs ID number and a password which in many cases is the child's birthdate.

Many LMSs and/or SMSs also include Digital Student Report Card Systems. Blackboard and WebCT both do.

School-developed systems

Larger school districts are utilizing their technology staffs to develop digital report card systems. For example, the Puget Sound School District (Seattle area) in Washington state has developed a report card interface that it has made available to its member districts. Again, these programs allow customization between traditional and standards-based progress reports. These systems are expensive, however. In the Seattle district, schools must pay a minimum of $11,000 to purchase the digital report card systems, plus a minimum annual support fee of $2,200.

This would not seem like much to a business software buyer, but schools depend heavily on grants for such purchases and use far different cost/benefit analysis models. Where private industry would typically consider cost savings, as in using software to free up personnel for other assignments, schools seem more likely to consider cost avoidance, because existing positions are already funded and likely dedicated (or earmarked) to specific tasks. Simplifying a job may not benefit the school system if conditions attached to funding preclude reassigning personnel.

A professional developer looking at the system requirements is easily tempted to think how easily one could be assembled from open source software and a little time. While it is certainly possible to build a system this way, initial time estimates will be grossly optimistic and a realistic evaluation will show that $11,000 is a pretty good value.

Pros and Cons of DRC Systems:

Pros to a digital report card systems include instant access for parents, teachers, and even administrators, depending on how the system is set up. This allows for monitoring progress by more than just the teacher. Districts can monitor the evaluation of students through an assessment of their teachers and not be so reliant on standardized tests.

Cons to a digital report card system include the issue of security. With any online access and centralized database their is always going to be some risk involved. The databases that are maintained through these systems contain a lot of personal and family information because some administrator tie together demographic, financial and other information to their gradebook information to generate cross referenced (socio-economic) information from the systems. The ease of use of some of the programs also limits the effectiveness of the systems. Many teachers report that setting up their daily gradebooks through various systems is cumbersome and only provide semester or quarterly grades after they have done daily grades by hand. This defeats some of the purpose of the programs availability to parents and administrators.