So what was the world’s first Student Information System for K-12? And when was it written?

I was chatting the other day with some friends from high school and realized how dramatically the world has changed since then.

To understand the magnitude of these changes, I graduated from Asheville High School, North Carolina, in 1979. My high school friends did not have a clear memory of the state of computers at the time, but I remember it well because of my involvement in many of the industry milestones of those formative years.

We needed a Student Information System in the 1970’s.

Prior to high school, I worked as a programmer for the federal government so I had a solid foundation in writing large complex systems. I also purchased the first microcomputer ever sold into the state of North Carolina, and by 1977 developed business software for small companies who purchased those amazing new boxes just to find there was no commercial software at the time.

Around that time, one of the Co-Principals as well as the Registrar of Asheville High School asked me, as a student project, if I could write software to automate the processing of student grades for a variety of purposes. Those objectives included class ranking, criteria for the honor society, class scheduling pre-requisite checking, and identifying those whose grades fell below a certain criteria. These are all simple tasks for today’s student information systems, but at the time all student records were on paper, meaning that those calculations required a massive amount of manual labor, plus normal amounts of expected human error.

We worked out an arrangement with the local university to tap into their DEC PDP-11 minicomputer through a dial-up telephone connection at the high school, and I wrote the software to allow calculations on the students’ grades and class history.

This was 1977. The software worked great, but was never commercialized. I don’t think it was even maintained after I graduated and moved 1000 miles away — finding the next high school kid with the requisite programming skills to maintain the system in 1979 was not within their realm.

But was that the first Student Information System for K-12?

But I now am wondering. What was the first Student Information System?

If you read THE Journal (The Evolution of Student Information Systems — THE Journal), they concluded that nothing of this magnitude was really attempted until the 80’s, and did not gain any traction until the 90’s. So 1977 seems to predate its “beginning of time” estimates.

Today’s popular Student Information Systems started in the 1990’s.

If you ask Quora in Who invented the student information system (SIS), and what is its history? – Quora, you would think it all started in by IBM and SMPL sometime shortly before 2005. That date is ridiculous, however, because the first versions of PowerSchool and Infinite Campus first were introduced in 1997, and Aeries in California started in 1995. So I kept looking.

Another Account of the History of SIS’s

The earliest college and university student information systems were started in the mid 1960’s, but that’s not a fair comparison since they had computers long before K-12 even could touch them.  For K-12, the earliest SIS that had good adoption was SASI starting around 1990.

Between 1977 and 1990, however, the entire computer industry went through several massive transformations. In 1977 we were storing our code and data on paper tape (and government was using punch cards). After MIT, I was at Microsoft in the early 80’s when the IBM PC first emerged, and when Mac/Windows GUI was first developed. Around that time the concept of a commercialized microcomputer software finally started taking off. Then from the mid-80’s to early-90’s the microcomputer industry transformed from a niche industry to becoming the massive driver of technology innovation that we see today.

But I digress. Back to the earliest K-12 Student Information System…

I would love your help in filling in the history of the early days of K-12 SIS systems.

I would love to hear from those of you who might have been involved in writing of student information software back when I did in the 70’s. Until I can find some contemporaries who might have been doing something similar, I lay claim to 1977 as the date of the first, albeit modest, Student Information System for K-12. Proving me wrong would be fine because the history of technology is so intriguing to me. Please respond to this Blog and help me assemble the facts of the earliest days of K-12 data processing.

Raymond Bily, CEO and Founder

BrightArrow Technologies, Inc.

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