Building custom reports in PowerSchool – Report Cards vs. Object Reports vs. ReportWorks

It’s March already and you may be thinking about building reports in PowerSchool to report on student achievement, like grades and transcripts, or simply start tackling many of the reports from your 2011-2012 to do list.

While PowerSchool provides several types of ready-made reports, it also provides the ability to create your own custom reports. Generally speaking, the three most powerful ways for reporting are: the grades-oriented “Report Cards” builder; the “Object Report” builder; and lastly, the most recently introduced report builder, “ReportWorks” (since version 6.X).

There are notable differences between the three builders but there is one commonalty among them which is that it is assumed that the user will have at least a basic understanding of HTML, PowerSchool’s Data Access Tags (DAT), and some basic knowledge of PowerSchool’s schema (that is, the relationship between the different tables in the database). Depending on your needs, you may find that all you need is a basic Report Card or, as is very common, some more complex report developed using Object Reports or ReportWorks.

Report Cards: as its name states, this builder was designed to easily create student schedules and report cards, along with any information coming from the “students” table. This builder comes preconfigured into three categories so it’s easy to know where everything goes: “Heading”, “Schedule listing” and “Footer.” Since this builder’s focus is on grades and schedules, the built-in “schedule listing” in the body of the report is a good tool to easily pull class and grade information without the need of complex DAT or HTML coding.

Object Reports: Until the advent of ReportWorks, Object Reports were the “easiest” and most powerful way of creating custom reports from PowerSchool. In comparison to Report Cards, Object Reports allow the user to extract just about any piece of information from a host of tables – students, test scores, standard, teachers, logs, etc. Also, Object Reports are significantly more customizable when it comes to formatting, as they let you decide how things should look on the report, much like a word processor does these days.

ReportWorks: This is PowerSchool’s most recently added report builder. Unlike Report Cards and Object Reports, ReportWorks is a stand-alone application, much like PowerTeacher and, though it requires a bit of training on how to use it, it is a very powerful way for creating reports. The greatest limitation with this builder is that 1) you cannot report on all tables (yet), as currently there are only six “Data Sets” available to choose from (Management Incident, Student Basic, Student Basic + Grades, Student Basic + Bell Schedule, Student Basic + Grades, Student Basic + Schedule), and 2) you cannot mix and match these data sets. For example, if you wanted to create a report with both Health and Bell Schedule information, you would have to create two reports. On the plus side, formatting reports is easier and therefore significantly less time-consuming that doing so in Object Reports.

Report Engine: This module is different than Object Reports and ReportWorks and its target audience is not the same as the other reports. The Report Engine is more in line with PowerSchool’s own State report builder as it allows the user to create sophisticated layers of queries and searches in the report. As such, there are two important caveats to note. First, PowerSchool users do not commonly use this report builder because it requires proficiency in HTML and SQL. Second, PowerSchool does not provide support for the engine. The latest formal documentation on the Report Engine dates back to 2002 and it is unlikely new documentation will be provided now that ReportWorks is here.

Aside from the core function of any report you build – that is, extracting useful information easily – there are also aesthetic considerations when deciding to create a report in either one of the builders. For example, Report Cards do not allow pictures to be included in the report– like the student’s photo or school logo – while Object Reports do.

Below is a summary matrix outlining which data type you can report in each of the report builders, along with our take on the expertise required to build them.

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