When students in Delaware transfer to another school district, they request paper copies of their records and take them to the new district's office to register.
But that's as far as the records go.
Their new teachers can't see any historical information in the district's database — they just see that the student is registered, said Bob Czeizinger, director of technology resources and data development at the Delaware Education Department.
Between school districts and charter schools, Delaware has 37 different databases that track student information.
“There’s always students who move between schools, and that’s always been kind of a problem as far as students moving from one school to another because they show up and basically they’re almost like a blank page,” Czeizinger said. "They’re sitting in your classroom, and it takes the teacher a few weeks to determine exactly where they fit into the class.”
By the 2011-2012 school year, the Delaware Education Department plans to pilot an electronic data exchange system. With the new system, districts and universities will share education records faster and more efficiently.
Instead of starting a paper trail, districts can exchange electronic transcripts and electronically transfer students. And teachers will be able to access information about their new students quickly.
“Now this is actually going to put some of the historical information in there so when a student shows up into your class, you’re going to be able to look — especially if they’re a Delaware student — and see what they got on the state test, see what courses they took, see what their grades were, that sort of thing," Czeizinger said.
On the higher education side, Delaware districts currently send PDFs of student transcripts to universities, but not the actual data. University staff members manually enter the data into their system.
“It’s time consuming, costly — it just doesn’t make sense,” said Judi Coffield, policy analyst for the State Board of Education. "With this technology available, why can’t we just transport the data?”
With the electronic process, universities and colleges can choose the pieces of information they want and pull those pieces into their system.
The new electronic exchange would save staff time, eliminate data entry errors and speed up the transcript exchange process.
The Education Department, school districts and the vendor are discussing how the system will work now. At a later point, they'll meet with the eight public and private higher education institutions in the state.
And by the 2011-2012 school year, Delaware hopes to start a pilot of the system.