The colonial school was usually one small room with one teacher responsible for supervision and administration of all students. The growth of graded and multiple-room schools led to the emergence of a "head teacher" responsible for the instructional program, grade placement of pupils, facility care and teacher assignments, along with the full-time teaching duties.

Today's school administration functions are more complex, thanks to the information explosion, larger school enrollments, population mobility and complex social problems. This growth requires more powerful administrative tools to streamline the administrative process, resulting in better communication, efficient operations and more student services.

Cutting administrative costs and delivering services more efficiently has become a recent trend. For example, Proposition 223 -- a June ballot initiative in California -- would place a 5-percent cap on administrative spending for the state's 1,000 school districts. If the initiative passes, many districts will need to cut administrative spending. Districts that continue to exceed the new cap face fines of about $175 per student. Other states are also considering similar measures.

The Business of Education

Schools today are, among other things, business enterprises; they, too, have to compete for students, funds and better services. The use of various administrative tools works well for the business community -- minimizing paperwork, improving ways of gathering and summarizing information, decentralizing management and structuring accounting systems to disclose financial performance and strategic planning. These tools can also help schools ease the burden imposed by many administrative tasks, such as:

* Attendance records and projections;

* Scheduling of students and teachers;

* Inventory control;

* School records and data files;

* Library circulation;

* Student files;

* Counseling;

* Personnel files;

* Mailing lists;

* Budgeting, purchasing and management;

* Building maintenance;

* Services, such as health, food and transportation; and

* Population movement.

Administrative tools are also helping schools recognize and provide for individual student differences. By accessing, gathering and summarizing information, school staff can effectively respond to the wide variations in the mental and physical capacities, levels of interest, learning abilities, achievements, purposes and values of students.

Use of General Office Software

Applications for the office are the most widely used by school administrators. The typical administrative software programs include:

* Word processing programs that have simplified the preparation of documents, such as notices, letters and reports, that must be changed slightly or reissued periodically.

* Databases that are being used to store student and personnel information. Databases also provide search engines that save a considerable amount of time for administrators.

* Spreadsheets that store and update tables needed for budgeting, projections and planning. Spreadsheets are powerful tools because the table's cells can be interrelated. Changing the contents of one cell affects the contents of all related cells. Users can make hypothetical entries into some of the cells, and see the effects of these entries on the table as a whole.

Today, the usage of general office programs is widespread, thanks to falling prices, and they provide a great deal of flexibility. For example, school staff can use a database to create a personnel file or a school-equipment inventory file; counselors can keep track of student records and information about careers and college placement; school nurses can store student health information and keep track of extended absences due to illness; cafeteria workers can monitor the nutritional content of school meals, plan menus, order supplies and keep track of inventory; and school custodians can inventory school supplies and equipment and monitor energy consumption.

General software programs are often part of a package that includes other useful office programs, such as time management, e-mail, presentations, the Internet, Web page design and encryption. Currently, Microsoft Office 97 and ClarisWorks Office are the most popular programs.

For additional information, contact Microsoft or Claris.

Specific Purpose Software