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K-12 Online Enrollment: Pros and Cons

June 13, 2023 at 2:38 PM

In an education world that has progressively shifted toward online options, the opportunity to allow parents to enroll their child online is available as well.

Yet when K-12 school districts consider that the journey of their student data can start outside of the district staff’s control, the pros and cons should be weighed heavily before making that software investment leap.

Virtually all parties would agree that entering data into a school district’s Student Information System (SIS) is a tedious task, and that bad keystrokes with human fingers is the No. 1 culprit of mistakes made in data collection. Data that is inaccurate is ‘lovingly’ called corrupted, and that is an instant credibility killer for all future data-driven decision-making, state reporting, and more – which in the end can cause incorrect data to infiltrate other systems – and worse yet, cost school districts money.


  • Allowing parents to input data online in an initial enrollment situation saves school district staff time at the beginning of the process.
  • Who better knows their children’s information than the parents?
  • If a school provides a workstation at the school where parents can do the enrollment it allows for school staff to guide them.


  • Whoever enters the data still doesn’t change the fact that poor keystrokes are the No. 1 culprit in data input errors. So, does it really save district staff time when they are forced to make numerous corrections from parents?
  • The majority of online enrollment software is coded in English only.
  • Parents are not familiar with the school district’s SIS software.
  • There are additional required data elements to a student’s record that parents are not able to provide.

How well parents know their own child makes no difference if they do even the simplest of things like accidentally adding the current date as their child’s birthdate, for one example. It’s even more amazing that parents make mistakes properly inputting the child’s first, middle and last name, and/or putting them in the wrong field. Then, there is something as simple as one parent typing in an address with Avenue, Ave., ave, or A – compared to the next parent – which can cause hours of waste and heartache for districts now dealing with inconsistent ‘dirty data.’

There is so much garbage data that comes in that way that many school staff who attend SIS conferences have verbalized that they question if it was worth it to purchase online enrollment because there is more to clean up than if they filled out a paper form and a school staff person transcribed it. However, most parents really don’t like filling out paper forms either, so the districts are caught between a rock and a hard place.

That said, when parents do not fill out paper forms, schools have now lost a paper trial. If someone changes the date of birth in the SIS. In that case, they have lost track of what was presented by the parent. There’s no piece of paper to look back at for the information.

While school staff can make keystroke errors like parents do, it’s a safer bet they will make fewer mistakes by being naturally used to using the school’s SIS.

Good industry estimates are that even with parents filling out an online enrollment form, that’s only about 35-40 percent of the informative data that school districts input and track. Parents cannot fill out English language learners’ information, or the first date receiving services or the special education data, and not what diploma track a student is on, among several dozen categories. Making things more challenging is that every state does all those things differently.

There is little if any acknowledgment by administrators of the amount of time it takes to get the student data in the form and format that the state will accept.

One solution gaining wide acceptance for cleaning and accurately managing data with great ease and simplicity comes from Level Data, Inc., based in Michigan. It’s so universally accepted that the states/territories of South Carolina, Alabama, and Puerto Rico purchased the service for every school district in their respective boundaries to use it for their state reporting.

The software is called the State Data Validation Suite (SDVS). More than 10 percent of all school districts nationwide trust Level Data as their data cleaning solution.

The SDVS software plugin turns any district’s SIS into a powerful state data validating machine, with intuitive color coding, error flagging and correction options that requires minimal training and is as easy to use as shopping online – all thanks to partnering with Level Data.

Tom Lang
Written by Tom Lang

Tom Lang has spent more than 3 decades in the field of journalism and marketing, while always having a hand in public education. His father was a school teacher, his mom a school secretary, and his wife teaches high school English and Humanities. On his own, Tom worked his way through college as a school bus driver and today remains closely tied to education as a Board member of FIRST (Robotics) in Michigan. He has worked with high school coaches and athletes for nearly 30 years as a freelance sports writer at the Detroit Free Press, and for more than 10 years as a basketball referee. Bottom line -- help kids grow, learn and create productive futures.

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