UPDATE 11/3/2016: This article has been updated from its original content to reflect feedback and software updates from existing options in the article.
When I was in high school, there were constant talks about what could and could not be funded by my school. As I grew older, I realized just how expensive it had become to educate a single child in the United States. As of 2012-13, the cost of educating a single student for one year reached as high as $12,296 per year.
And that’s for public schools.
While the cost of administration only accounts for $829 of the total amount spent per student each year, it doesn’t hurt to find ways to cut back on unnecessary costs.
In order to aid in this cost reduction while maintaining order on the technology front, there are plenty of free school administration software options to choose from. Here are the top six free and open-source school administration software platforms.
FeKara, just like School Time, is an all around school admin powerhouse, so long as you are running an operation with 50 students or less.
Pros: FeKara is a clean and modern school administration and management software option which covers everything from exams and assignments to budgeting and internal messaging for all staff. FeKara even includes a mobile app which can work on all tablets and smartphones for convenient on-the-go use.
Cons: Similar to School Time, FeKara is limited by the amount of students, bandwidth, and storage which can be managed on the free version of its software. FeKara is free for schools as long as they remain under fifty students and five teachers in their system, which limits the free use of this software to much smaller schools. If you upgrade one step up, FeKara charges $0.20 per student with unlimited teachers, and finally, their highest paid tier offers unlimited students and teachers for a one-time charge of $350.
7. School Time
If you are a smaller school, such as a private elementary or preschool with 50 students or less, the free version of School Time may be just what you are looking for.
Pros: No financial obligations or credit cards are required for the free version of the program and it never expires. Features include board management, grading systems, library databases, exam management, transportation, attendance, and even dormitory management.
Cons: The most obvious con would have to be the limit on the amount of students that can be accounted for in the free version of School Time. Of course this issue can be solved by upgrading to the not-so-free versions of School Time, but doing so would negate the “free and open source” solution you were looking for. So, as long as your school falls at or below 50 students, School Time can be a fit for you.
6. TS School
TS School, or Time Software School, is a classic powerful tool that offers the basics for schools of all sizes.
Pros: TS School is great for managing your workforce—it has a powerful human resources module to help manage your school’s staff. TS School also offers a robust student management system, reports, a powerful organizational calendar (with plenty of space to detail sports team timetables or organize classes by subject matter), and an exam module for teachers.
Cons: There are some notable features lacking in TS School that can be found in the paid version, including customizable reports, development, inventory, safety, and admissions. TS School may also present a challenge to teachers who have never worked with school administration software before, as some claim it is not immediately intuitive to use.
Fedena is an open-source school administration software that largely focuses on handling records.
Pros: Fedena offers unlimited administration and student logins to use their system, along with unlimited courses and batches. The system was developed using Ruby on Rails, so schools can easily customize the code to their school’s needs. The system includes human resources, a calendar, financial management, examination management, and student/parent logins.
Cons: Fedena is the free version of another school administration software of the same name. When comparing the free version to the paid version, it becomes clear that the open-source version is lacking in a number of features, including inventory, custom reports, registration, and discipline.
4. Ascend SMS
Ascend SMS is an entirely free full-program school administration software made for Catholic and Independent schools. Ascend SMS proudly notes, “AscendSMS does not believe schools should have to pay exorbitant prices for something they fundamentally need to make their school work.”
Pros: Ascend SMS offers a complete package. From offering a health management system for the school nurse to a mobile app for parents to a simple discipline reporting system, Ascend SMS offers more than many paid school administration software options. Administrators will be particularly attracted to their heavy reporting feature, which quickly provides information on ACR, school vitality, student performance, and more.
Cons: Ascend SMS is only free to Catholic and Independent schools. Ascend SMS also limits the number of schools that it adds to its system each year.
SchoolTool is a cloud-based open-source school administration software made for schools in the developing world.
Pros: SchoolTool has a ton of features that largely appeal to teachers. It provides educators with what they need to run their classrooms (gradebooks, skill assessment documents, class attendance sheets, and daily participation journals), strong organization features (including a calendar that plugs in with popular calendar applications like Google Calendar), and a great report card generator. SchoolTool was made with Python, is largely secure, and is run on Linux Ubuntu.
Cons: SchoolTool is a great starting software for smaller schools, but it isn’t an all-inclusive piece of software. For example, schools will have to find other applications to do human resources, reporting, and financial management. SchoolTool is far more a tool for teachers than it is for administrators. SchoolTool has announced as of October 17, 2016 that their primary developers have moved onto other projects, so while outside developers have access to the source code to make improvements, the main team will not be contributing to future updates. It remains to be seen whether or not this will affect the software’s performance in the long run, but the uncertainty doesn’t help in terms of confidence in performance.
Gibbon gives new meaning to “all-in-one” software. Gibbon is an open-source “school platform” that not only deals with school administration, but also provides features and services for teachers.
Pros: Gibbon offers a vast array of features including administration tools dealing with finance, staff management, payroll, invoicing, departmenting, and schedules. Gibbon also deals with the teaching tools and assessment access for parents, including grade books, rubrics, assessments, planner tools, and library catalogues.
The clean user-interface also helps in regards to the learning curve inherent in adopting a new software system.
Cons: Software maintenance for Gibbon is quite technical, requiring coding knowledge, which is standard for open-source software. Support is limited to online guides written out for administrators, teachers, and parents if they experience issues, however written support will never replace helpful live support.
The lack of any transcript features also deducts from its otherwise large features base.
OpenSIS is a free, open-source platform designed for K-12, regardless of if they are charter, private, or state-run schools. OpenSIS is best suited for small and medium schools with a knowledgeable IT staff.
Pros: While OpenSIS offers both free and paid versions of its software, its free version has substantial features. Schools can use this software to maintain transcripts, health records, attendance, demographic information, scheduling, gradebooks, and custom reports. OpenSIS boasts a 4.8/5 star rating on SourceForge. OpenSIS also offers integration with Moodle LMS software in its latest software updates, making user info creation and management for students, staff, and teachers much easier.
Cons: To take full advantage of OpenSIS Community, IT members will have to be familiar with PostgreSQL. The free version does not offer discipline, class portals, billing, or state reporting.
Honorable Mention: ThinkWave Online Gradebook
While ThinkWave’s Online Gradebook is not a full school administration option, but it is the best free gradebook option for small schools.
Pros: This intuitive system is easy for teachers to learn and use and it’s compatible with most operating systems and browsers. The free version offers flexible grading options, so teachers can stress the grade impact of certain projects and tests over others. It includes 25 MB of storage for online assignments and allows both parents and students to access the portal.
Cons: Like so many other free cloud software, ThinkWave Online Gradebook is ad-supported. ThinkWave does not provide technical support or SSL encryption—unless users upgrade to the Premium edition for $49.95 a year.
It is true that many other free software tools exist all over the web, many of them are restricted by feature limits, operating system requirements, or user limitations. While many schools will find solace in using these free options, not every school is looking for a smaller, free software system. If you these free and open-source school administration systems don’t quite cut it, there are plenty of other paid options to choose from.
If you have recently transitioned to a paid system, be sure to leave a review on our page so that we will stay up-to-date with user experiences!
Looking for School Administration software? Check out Capterra's list of the best School Administration software solutions.