Software Trends in the Training of School Administrators

Article excerpt

I utilized the software packages of Excel, Statview and Mac School in teaching multiple classes of a school-finance course this year. In only two hours the students were able to create a spreadsheet, enter data and use graphics. Seven years ago I taught essentials of school budgeting with a single software package: VisiCalc. It took eight hours for those graduate students to learn how to create a template and enter data. Today's students find the newer software to be powerful, efficient and easy to use.

Could those of us who teach educational administration courses have predicted our current use of software five or ten years ago? Are we now using appropriate computer programs to prepare school leaders for the 1990s? Do our choices in software applications reflect national trends? The results of a recent poll of more than 200 universities throughout the United States and Canada reveal some answers to these questions.

Educational administration program coordinators and computer-using faculty rated the software applications used by their graduate students in the 1980s, and predicted what they would use in the 1990s. Table 1 details the six categories of software applications deemed important to the training of school administrators. They are, in rank order: financial, building-level, general, communications, central office and classroom applications.

Financial Applications

Accounting, budgeting and spreadsheet software are grouped into this classification. The respondents considered competency in operating this software to be the most vital for both decades. The percentage of faculty valuing financial applications as "essential" rose from 26 percent in the 1980s to 62 percent in the 1990s, an increase of 36 percent.

In the early 1980s, the recalculation feature of the VisiCalc spreadsheet appealed to administrators involved

                                   1980s   1990s
1. Financial Applications:          26%     62%
   Accounting
   Budgeting
   Spreadsheets
2. Building-Level Applications:     20%     58%
   Attendance
   Business Software Evaluation
   Report Cards
   Scheduling
   Student Records
3. General Applications:            18%     52%
   Database
   Graphics
   Integrated Software
   Statistics
4. Communications:                  12%     49%
   Telecommunications
   Word Processing
5. Central Office Applications:     11%     35%
   Calendar Programs
   Decision-Making Simulations
   Planning
   Project Management
6. Classroom Applications:          4%      13%
   Computer-Assisted Instruction
   Courseware Evaluations
   Grade Book
   Interactive Video
   Programming Languages
     TABLE 1: ESSENTIAL SOFTWARE
  The percentage of educational administration program
coordinators who ranked clusters of software applications as
essential to school administration in the 1980s versus
1990s.  (N=210)

in negotiating a district's budget. In this decade, more specialized school budget programs, such as the financial components of the Mac School package, are widely used. Not only the budget, but purchasing, payroll, inventories and other accounts can be automated via appropriate modules in the latest financial software. With these accounting, budgeting and spreadsheet packages, today's educational administration students are being trained to create and alter budgets as well as to disburse payments and plan project costs--all on computer.

Building-Level Applications

While finance is an area useful to all educational administrators, the building-level cluster is very helpful to school principals specifically. Five applications are in this group, ranked second in importance: attendance, business software evaluation, report cards, scheduling and student records. The rankings of "essential" for building-level applications increased 38 percent between the 1980s to the 1990s. Even a short decade ago many districts, particularly those with smaller suburban and rural schools, were still manually taking attendance, entering grades, scheduling students and classrooms, and maintaining records. …