L.A. Schools Struggle to Open Year with Sputtering New Computer System

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is locked in contract negotiations with the teachers union but all anyone seems to be talking about is a new computer system that is plagued with problems.

“To me it’s complete chaos,” special education teacher Kelly Flores told Yana Gracile at LA School Report two weeks after launch. “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.

My Integrated Student Information System (MiSiS) is responsible for “attendance, scheduling, grades, counseling, discipline, health, A-G course completion, and a great deal more,” according to LAUSD. The “great deal more” includes 181 “known issues” that were driving teachers and staff nuts as of last Saturday.

The website listed 41 problems with the attendance module alone, prompting the school district to revert to old-fashioned data collection using paper. The district has slowed the rollout of various system functions while it tries to debug the program that serves 650,000 students at more than 1,000 schools.

LAUSD touted the fact that 99% of students were properly registered by the system while it is being “fine-tuned.” But teachers told a different story. School started on August 12 and within two days the system was scaled back for use by just administrators and office staff.

Students were assigned to wrong classes or not registered at all, while others stood in long lines for answers or were shuffled off to the auditorium. Schedules and records were lost. Karen Wolfe, a parent who helped teachers at Del Rey Middle School prepare for the opening of school, told Thomas Hines at the Los Angeles Daily News, “They had no data to track these kids or know easily how many kids were going into a class; there were chair shortages. It was very taxing.”

Hines wrote that the district had been forewarned that the system was not ready for prime time but forged ahead. The union wants it shut down for now, but that’s probably not going to happen.

District Superintendent John Deasy acknowledged there were issues and last Thursday said the he plans to hire an independent liaison to report directly to him about how the system can be fixed. An LAUSD spokesperson said the district’s inspector general will perform an audit in response to a request from school board member Tamar Galatzan, who wants to know why the district launched a system that “severely crippled basic and essential services at every school and most departments in the district.”  

The school district is already suffering from the contentious rollout of its $1 billion plan to equip every student with an iPad and special software in preparation for the arrival of new Common Core teaching standards. After students hacked the computers to get past filters, the district wrestled with non-existent policies for replacing lost and stolen equipment, sketchy Wi-Fi, virtual keyboards that limited use of software and suspiciously high equipment prices.

When negotiators for the school district and union sat down last Thursday to discuss a new three-year contract, “Raises, a major sticking point, weren't even on the agenda,” according to an LAUSD press release. Just MiSiS.

“I’m disappointed that they won’t discuss the raises we want to give them,” Superintendent Deasy said. Apparently they wanted to discuss something more important than money.

–Ken Broder 


To Learn More:

Deasy Planning to Hire His Own Liaison for MiSiS Project (by Vanessa Romo, LA School Report)

Los Angeles Unified Works to Fix New Computer System; Problems Persist (by Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News)

LAUSD in Crisis over Its New MiSiS Computer System (by Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News)

More Than 99 Percent of LAUSD Students Registered and in Class (Los Angeles Unified School District)

LAUSD Delays Elements of MiSiS (United Teachers Los Angeles)

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