LA Unified has agreed to delay parts of a new student data management system that was set to launch districtwide on Tuesday, the first day of school, after the teachers union and other district employees raised concerns that the technology is riddled with glitches.
But UTLA says it’s not enough, and union officials say they expect widespread chaos when school opens.
The system, called 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. The plan is for teachers and administrators to track more easily attendance, grades, health and counseling records from a single location. The system would also allow parents to access their children’s grades and attendance records and even monitor class assignments.
LAUSD was forced to develop the program as a result of a lawsuit to ensure that paper files on students wouldn’t be lost.
But now, as the system is ramping up, UTLA officials are saying they’re being flooded with complaints, mostly from school counselors in charge of enrolling students. They say the new comprehensive program is not as user friendly as expected, offering fewer tools than existing systems, which currently meet the criteria of the lawsuit.
“It’s a dinosaur in what’s supposed to be 21st century technology,” Colleen Schwab, Secondary Vice President of UTLA told LA School Report. “It’s far, far inferior to what they’re using now, and our teachers and counselors are in a panic.”
As one example, Schwab said counselors at Sun Valley Middle School Magnet reported that they came in one morning to find electronic records for two thirds of the students who had already been programmed were wiped out.
“I have counselors who tell me they’re waking up at three in the morning to log into to the system because there’s less traffic, and they think they might have a better chance of getting the information to stick,” she said.
The district’s Chief Information Officer, Ron Chandler, insists that the problems are not so widespread.
“The majority of our schools have already enrolled students and set class assignments,” he told LA School Report. “The students who will most likely be affected by the new system will be students who are totally new to LAUSD.”
Chandler acknowledges MiSiS has a number of problems. “This is easily one of the most complex technology programs going on in the planet right now, of course, it’s challenging,” he said.
But he argues the district’s hands are tied in what it can do to slow the roll out because any changes must be approved by a federally appointed independent monitor overseeing the MiSiS implementation.
“The district can’t make decisions on it’s own. It has to be a conversation involving all parties,” Chandler said.
For now, K-5 teachers can hold off on using MiSiS to record student grades until November while 6-12 teachers have a reprieve through January.
“In the meantime, we’re going to continue training teachers pretty much everyday,” Chandler said.
Union officials said that implementation of the computer system should be part of contract negotiations that are now underway with the district, as a way to ensure that educators are not burdened with additional problems.
UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said, “That the Superintendent was considering rushing into this continues a distressing pattern of running headlong into technology fiascos that drain the budget and aren’t good for students—like the iPad rollout and the Common Core testing experiences.”