LA Unified computer problems hampering special ed teachers
Yana Gracile | August 19, 2014
Two weeks into the new school year, LA Unified administrators are still working out bugs in a new computer system, a disruption that has made instruction particularly difficult for special education teachers, who need specific information for each of their students..
The new MiSiS — My Integrated Student Information System — is designed to track every aspect of a student’s academic career by integrating a variety of existing computer programs.
Special education teacher Kelly Flores, who teaches at Maya Angelou Community High School, said the problems she has encountered with MiSiS are preventing her from doing her job, costing students valuable instruction time.
“I can’t really use MiSiS. The only thing I can do is take attendance of the kids that I have enrolled in a couple of classes,” she told LA School Report. “I personally have no access in finding my students, so I’m going on the second week, and I can’t service my students. The only thing I can do is know who the students I had last year were and go look for them class to class.”
Overall, thousands of students in the district are affected. As a special education teacher, Flores must be working with her students either in a classroom or learning center, making sure they’re programmed correctly into the classes they need.
“I’m unable to do this because of the new system,” she said.
Flores says there’s a way teachers can access their case load, but it has to go through an administrator, and at this point, she said, no administrator knows how to do it or has the time to do it.
“To me it’s complete chaos,” she said.
She insisted that the only way she knows her students are at school is if she sees them in the halls. She said many of them were programmed in, but some don’t have the correct classes.
“I write down their schedules, but their schedules are being changed,” she said.
Flores said she believes the district made a mistake by shutting down the older, but reliable computer system, without making sure the new system worked properly, leaving teachers without information they need.
“I don’t know how to access my students, and even if I could, I don’t know how because I haven’t been trained,” she said. “It is something that is good in theory, but it wasn’t tested, and it wasn’t perfected before they rolled it out.”
Making matters worse, she said, teachers can’t identify any new special education students coming in from middle school.
By this time in previous years, Flores said, the special education student case load would already have been distributed, and teachers would find their students by using the former computer system. Now, she said, they haven’t been able to do any of it.
Flores would normally have between 28 and 30 special education students, but currently she only has 10 who have been programmed into her classes.
“I should be in the classroom with all of those 28,” she said. “They should know who I am, and I should have their schedules and be providing services. The system is not working and it’s not allowing special education students to have their needs met.”
MiSiS has been plagued with problems ever since its debut earlier this month. Counselors in charge of enrolling students have complained that the new comprehensive program is not as user friendly as the older system. MiSiS, they say, also adds to their workloads because it has lost a substantial amount of student data that had been entered.
District officials have conceded they are working on the problems and have told teachers they “will not have access to the system while the issues are being resolved.”