- What is the SSIS?
- Why is the SSIS good for public education?
- Who was involved in creating the SSIS?
- Will my district have to pay for the SSIS? Is the state providing any resources?
- What are the cost savings for school districts?
- How did the SSIS become law?
- How did the state select a SSIS vendor?
- Was there an independent evaluation of the bid process?
- What is the State Superintendent's role in selecting the vendor for the SSIS?
- Why doesn't the state favor Wisconsin-owned businesses? Shouldn't keeping jobs in Wisconsin be a factor in awarding contracts?
- Are we building or buying the SSIS?
- When could the SSIS be available for districts?
- What should districts that are looking at acquiring student information systems do now?
- How do districts prepare for the new SSIS?
Question & Answers
Q: What is the SSIS?
A: As the state moves to new assessment, evaluation and accountability systems, the need for timely, accurate student data has never been greater. A student information system is the core software for operating a school district. It Involves:
- Handling the admissions process;
- Enrolling new pupils;
- Automatically creating class & teacher schedules;
- Handling records of tests, assessments, grades and academic progression;
- Maintaining records of absences and attendance;
- Recording communications with pupils;
- Maintaining discipline records;
- Providing statistical reports;
- Communicating pupil details to parents through a parent portal;
- Special education/individualized education program (IEP) services; and
- Pupil health records.
The DPI has supported the creation of a SSIS, because it will:
- Significantly improve student data quality and security, ensuring student records are
- accurate and safe;
- Automate burdensome reporting requirements, freeing up staff to focus on student
- learning; and
- Considerably reduce local technology costs by taking advantage of economies of scale.
Most importantly, the SSIS will ensure that parents and students in every district have access to secure online portals that contain important information on student assignments, state and local assessments, course grades, as well as attendance and discipline data.
Q: Why is the SSIS good for public education?
A: The economies of scale and technological benefits of a SSIS are particularly important in states like Wisconsin, which have a large number of relatively small districts. The SSIS scales very well statewide, meeting the needs of districts whether they have 1,000 or 100,000 students by:
- Extending SIS features beyond what many districts have now.
- Ensuring equity in such systems across the entire state.
- Eliminating state reporting tasks for districts, thus reducing operational costs.
- Eliminating repeated tasks every district performs, e.g., updating software, databases,
- servers, etc.
- Allowing for more timely access to student data ("real-time" versus "last year's" data)
- Enabling the electronic transmission of student records and data:
- All student records in SSIS will transfer with a single click.
- When a student transfers, teachers and staff will have immediate access to
- student performance and achievement data.
- No more school clerical staff mailing student folders from district to district.
Q: Who was involved in creating the SSIS?
A: DPI conducted an extensive outreach process with end--user stakeholders to develop objective system requirements and selection criteria for the SSIS. These stakeholder groups included school nurses, school district IT professionals, special education teachers, regular education and advanced learning teachers, principals, superintendents and administrative support staff.
Q: Will my district have to pay for the SSIS? Is the state providing any resources?
A: Transition costs like data migration and staff training will be paid for by the state, not local school districts. The state appropriated $15 million as part of the 2011--13 state budget to transition school districts to the SSIS.
Q: What are the cost savings for school districts?
A: Almost every district currently pays a per--student licensing fee to their software vendor. Based on the experience of other states, the per--student cost of the SSIS will be significantly lower than the price districts are currently paying. A statewide contract will allow for the negotiation of volume pricing discounts that individual districts are not able to achieve.
The five year timeline enables districts to transition data systems at the time that makes the most sense for them. Districts can continue to use their current software during the five year window and switch to the SSIS when their contract with their current vendor expires.
Additionally, school districts should be able to reduce the staff and technology (such as computer servers) costs associated with maintaining individual data systems.
Q: How did the SSIS become law?
A: DPI worked with the governor and legislature to create the SSIS as part of the 2011-13 state budget, which provided $15 million to cover SSIS implementation, including the cost of local data migration and staff training.
The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee further directed that the SSIS must be provided by a single vendor, a position that both DPI and the governor supported.
While the SSIS will replace local student information systems over a five year transition period, districts will continue to select their own human resource, finance, and other data systems.
Q: How did the state select a SSIS vendor?
A: To implement the legislative requirement for a SSIS, DPI worked with the Department of Administration (DOA) to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the new system.
State law require's DOA's State Bureau of Procurement to administer the procurement process to ensure vendor selections are fair, unbiased and free from political influence. No elected officials or appointed unclassified staff can participate in this process.
Following state procurement rules and guidelines, a committee of experts, including school district staff, DPI technology staff, and Department of Administration (DOA) staff, developed the SSIS RFP, which outlined the technical specifications of the SSIS for potential vendors.
All SSIS vendor proposals subsequently underwent an exhaustive review and scoring process by a knowledgeable, experienced evaluation team. The evaluation team unanimously recommended that the SSIS contract be awarded to the highest scoring proposal.
On Feb. 1, 2013, DOA issued a letter of intent to award for the SSIS project to Infinite Campus, which received the highest technical score and had the lowest cost bid, resulting in the highest overall score. Details can be found in DOA's new release.
Q: Was there an independent evaluation of the bid process?
A: Yes, an independent third-party reviewer monitored the procurement, evaluation, and selection process. The third party observer issued an extensive report noting the SSIS "open, fair, impartial, and objective" that all procurement laws were followed, and that all vendors had an equal opportunity to compete. Key findings included:
- The RFP "was drafted to identify the best possible vendor for the job at the best possible price"
"...the vendor with highest total score was the clear winner. The Evaluation Team unanimously recommended that the SSIS contract be awarded to the highest scoring proposer. The vendor recommendation was fair to all vendors, and consistent with the RFP and applicable state law."
In addition, the selection process included "an exhaustive qualitative review of the proposals submitted against pre-written benchmarks and an objective cost component. Finally, based upon my observations, the Evaluation Committee did not appear to be subject to any outside influence on the selection process."
Q: What is the State Superintentdent's role in selecting the vendor for the SSIS?
A: No elected official or political appointee, including the State Superintendent, can be part of the procurement process.
All the vendor proposals underwent an exhaustive review process by a knowledgeable, experienced evaluation team to ensure the vendor selected meets the needs of DPI, Wisconsin school districts and was in the best interest of the taxpayers.
The evaluation team was made up of educational professionals representing Wisconsin school districts and one DPI civil servant. In addition, individuals from the stakeholder groups that helped develop the RFP also participated in vendor demonstrations.
The procurement process used by the evaluation team followed statutory guidance for ensuring a fair, unbiased conclusion based upon merit and free from political influence. The State Superintendent was notified of the evaluation committee's final recommendation and authorized DOA to issue the letter of intent to award the contract based on the final scores.
Q: Why doesn't the state favor Wisconsin-owned businesses? Shouldn't keeping jobs in Wisconsin be a factor in awarding contracts?
A: We all understand that people may be disappointed that a Wisconsin company was not the highest scorer in the SSIS competitive bid process. However, state procurement laws prohibit considering a vendor's home state when awarding a contract.
Additionally, a selective preference for Wisconsin companies in the state contract process may have negative consequences for Wisconsin companies competing in other states.
Wisconsin state law [Wis. Stats. 16.75(1)(a)(2)] relates to fair trade for businesses among the states. Simply stated, if Wisconsin companies receive preferential treatment, then other states may give preferential treatment to in--state companies instead of considering Wisconsin vendors on an equal basis. Since many Wisconsin companies do a significant volume of their business in other states across the nation, a broad adoption of this kind of policy could seriously hurt Wisconsin businesses and jobs.
Q: Are we building or buying the SSIS?
A: The vast majority of states implementing Statewide Student Information Systems have opted to implement a vendor system rather than building a system. Wisconsin will implement a vendor system.
Q: When could the SSIS be available for districts?
A:The first group of districts should be able to go live in the second semester of the 2012-13 school year. The state legislation mandates that the system be implemented in all districts within five years of the contract’s finalization, i.e., December, 2017. If you are interested in participating in the SSIS implementation please click here.
Q: What should districts that are looking at acquiring student information systems do now?
A: Districts must make their own decisions about such systems. The first group of districts is scheduled to begin migration in the second semester of the 2012-13 school year. Districts interested in being in Group 1 should click here.
Q: How do districts prepare for the new SSIS?
A: The SSIS team, consisting of DPI and school district experts, is creating a readiness checklist. If you are interested in starting the implementation process please click here.