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Independent investigator on MiSiS finds flaws from the beginning

Vanessa Romo | October 14, 2014

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computer-glitch-problems-LAUSDThe Office of the Independent Monitor, charged with overseeing the implementation of the MiSiS program, told LA Unified yesterday, in great detail, how the introduction of the student data system was a massive failure from start to (un)finish.

The district was forced to develop the computer software program as a result of a 1993 lawsuit to ensure that paper files on students wouldn’t be lost.

But the court appointed monitor, David Rostetter, concluded in his annual review that a vast majority of schools reported problems with MiSiS. Of 201 schools surveyed by Rostetter, the 197 respondents reported problems that impacted their ability to identify students with disabilities enrolled at their schools.

Further, the modules developed by LA Unified concerning attendance, counseling, discipline and grades duplicated functions fulfilled by another system the district was already paying for, but did so in an inferior manner.

Developing those features left little time to conduct appropriate testing of the program.

“During the development of the software it was noted that programming outpaced the MiSiS team’s capacity for conducting quality assurance (QA) work.,” Rostetter’s report reads. “It was also noted that the team lacked the adequate resources for QA testing, which resulted in several software code freeze dates not being met.”

The report also noted that while that the district acknowledged problems with the implementation, “it provided conflicting reports minimizing the impact and portrayed a quick resolution of problems.” And the plan to “train the trainer” on using the new system was ultimately unsuccessful.

Another failing in the MiSiS rollout is that most charter schools have not implemented the program. By law, all LA Unified charter schools are required to track students under the same computer system, but only 58 of  254 are utilizing MiSiS, all of which are affiliated charter schools. The rest are using third party data management systems despite the federal mandate.

“The lack of charter schools’ use of MiSiS calls into question leadership’s failure to implement the system’s use,” the report stated.

The board will hear another update from the Information Technology Division today on how it’s handling widespread software problems.

It is also set to vote on a resolution to spend $3.6 million on buying more than 3,300 desktop computers for staff members at schools who use MiSiS on a regular basis.

Ron Chandler, the district’s Chief Information Officer, has said school computers at most campuses are too old to run MiSiS programs, a problem his office did not consider when developing the software.

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