In Partnership with 74

LAUSD and charters reach agreement on court-ordered MiSiS data sharing

Craig Clough | March 18, 2016

Your donation will help us produce journalism like this. Please give today.


Components of the LA Unified MiSiS computer system.

LA Unified and its 221 independent charter schools have reached an agreement on the court-ordered requirement that charters sync their student data information systems with the district’s massive MiSiS system.

The agreement calls on the district to develop an interface solution that will allow data systems at charter schools to communicate with MiSiS but allow the schools to keep their own systems in place. The agreement also allows charters to adopt MiSiS if they wish to do so.

The agreement was reached on March 10 between LA Unified, its independent charters, the plaintiffs of a special education consent decree and the court-ordered independent monitor of the decree.

The agreement was characterized as “a huge win” for all parties by Gina Plate of the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), which negotiated on behalf of LA Unified’s charters.

“It could have gotten very hostile and ugly, like some of the other areas we have with charters and the district, but we were able to resolve this one in a way that makes everyone happy,” said Plate, who is a senior special education advisor for CCSA.

Plate said the district, the independent monitor and the plaintiffs reached an internal agreement in December to agree to the interface but did not share that with charter leaders until this month because they needed time to draft the letter and get all of the details organized.

LA Unified has been under federal court oversight since 1996 as a result of a class-action lawsuit that accused it of non-compliance with special education laws. As part of the settlement, an independent monitor was appointed in 2003 to oversee the district’s compliance with what is known as the Chanda Smith Modified Consent Decree.

MiSiS, the district’s student data system, was created to fulfill part of the decree which called for better tracking of special education student records. And because special education students at LA Unified’s independent charter schools are part of the same special education district, the decree required charters to also take on MiSiS.

But when MiSiS was launched in the fall of 2014 it immediately began to cause substantial problems at schools due to system failures and glitches. Charter schools were hesitant to adopt the system themselves due to the problems, Plate said, and also because many of the older charters already have their own systems that they have dedicated time and money to developing.

“Because there was no system available for the last 20 years, charters have purchased their own systems. And not only have they purchased their own systems, they have customized those systems to reflect the needs of their student population,” Plate said.

MiSiS has been largely stabilized and is operating without any major problems being reported this school year. CCSA officials have had weekly meetings for the last year and a half to try and resolve the issue of how to get charters in line with the court requirements, Plate said.

The agreement was announced to LA Unified school board members and Superintendent Michelle King in a March 10 letter from LA Unified’s Charter Schools Division Director Jose Cole-Gutierrez and CEO of Strategic Planning and Digital Innovation Diane Pappas.

“This approach will allow charter schools to retain their current student information systems, provided that they transmit certain key student data to the district in a technically compatible manner,” the letter said.

Plate said the interface will be developed by LA Unified along with experts from Microsoft, and the district will pay the bill. No timeframe has yet been set on when the interface will be ready.

The agreement between charters and the district on MiSiS does not complete the consent decree process for LA Unified. It still has to spend over $600 million to make all of its schools compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and it has one more of 18 performance-based outcomes that it needs to meet. The outcome requires disabled students to receive services as specified in their Individual Education Plans. In November, district officials and the independent monitor told LA School Report the district likely would be under the watch of the monitor for several more years.

Read Next