About once a week someone asks if they've missed the story on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools demographics, poverty levels and school-by-school enrollment.
Nope. I haven't written that story because CMS hasn't produced those numbers, even though the school year is more than one-quarter over.
As they've explained and I've reported, the delay is tied to the ongoing problems with PowerSchool, a new data system the state rolled out this school year. But really -- we still can't get enrollment and demographic numbers that were tallied in September and poverty numbers from October?
McCully said that CMS does indeed track enrollment on a daily basis. Those numbers are used for teacher allotments and other decisions.
What CMS doesn't have is the ability to generate the Principals Monthly Report, at least not at all schools. Despite weekly requests and multiple "patches," some schools still can't make that system work, McCully said. And until they can all generate those reports, CMS can't produce a districtwide report on the enrollment and racial composition at each school. The poverty report, which is based on eligibility for federal lunch subsidies, uses enrollment numbers from the Principals Monthly Report to do the calculations, he said.
"We're all a little frustrated," added Tahira Stalberte from the public information staff.
It's not the most burning issue in public education, but the delayed details do compound a serious challenge: At a time when families are facing more choices than ever, it's unusually difficult to get good data about schools. Test scores that normally come out during the summer were deferred to November, and changes in the testing system pose new questions about what the numbers mean. School-by-school data reports from CMS and the state may not be out by the time the 2014-15 application season starts in January.
Meanwhile, the PowerSchool problems are starting to seem like more than start-up glitches. I checked the ongoing list of "known issues" the day before Thanksgiving, and while I don't understand most of the techspeak, it looks daunting. I put in a request for an update from the Department of Public Instruction on Nov. 19 and haven't yet gotten a response from Chief Financial Officer Philip Price.
Here's hoping a new month brings some new answers. McCully wasn't willing to make any predictions, though. "I think I've said 'next week' for the last two months," he said.