Friday, February 28, 2014

Details on N.C. PowerSchool problems

The glitches in North Carolina's school data system are intensely interesting to some readers and deadly dull to others,  depending on how much they affect your life. This post is for the first group.

Teachers,  administrators and parents around the state have been complaining about the new system since the start of the school year.  Keung Hui with the News & Observer got state officials' attention with a story last week detailing some of the frustrations,  including those in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.  The state is now asking Pearson to refund some of the agreed-on $7.1 million first-year fee because of the problems.

Hui and I had both been asking our districts for details on the ongoing problems.  Wake County Public Schools came through first. After the story ran,  Philip Price,  the Department of Public Instruction official in charge of PowerSchool,  provided this response to the Wake issues,  which are similar to those detailed by CMS this week.

For those trying to follow the twists and turns, here's Price's take on the issues and solutions,  followed by the CMS list provided by data analyst Jay Parker.

From Price: 
We have gone through the list of issues from Wake County and have responded to each of them below. We are happy to talk with you further about any of the items.
In short, there were no real surprises. We know that some issues exist with the system and some with the districts’ data. We are working with Pearson and with the districts to resolve all the known issues. While I see the progress of the system from planning , transition, and implementation as being very successful, the users are the individuals who rely on the system to accomplish their assignments.  Their frustrations are real and need to be addressed.  As I mentioned before, we know problems will continue to surface as we progress through this transition year.  The key is to minimize (or better eliminate) problems from recurring.  I can say that we are doing an excellent job in that area, and we are doing all of this within budget.

Athletic Eligibility – At this time, DPI has not provided the ability for a district to run eligibility for athletics for students in PowerSchool
·              The athletic eligibility requirements for North Carolina do require development work for our version of PowerSchool .  This was known when the contract was signed.  The scheduled delivery date is in March 2014.  The fall eligibility was based on data in NC Wise.  To accommodate the spring eligibility, 3 reports were created to review attendance, grades, and residency.  Only those determined to be ineligible are listed on the report.  The districts were able to review those students to determine if they also should be eligible.
·              The posted schedule for upcoming releases can be found here.

Inadequate Progress - DPI has not provided the ability to generate a progress report needed for the school district so they can submit the needed data to the NC DMV
·              This is a customized report for PowerSchool (to comply with North Carolina’s law) and is scheduled to be available in the April/May timeframe
·              Meanwhile, all data necessary for LEAs to certify driver’s ed eligibility is available in PowerSchool. It does require an individual to review the student status for the following 3 areas and to manually complete the DMV required form:
      • Academics – passing 70% of courses
      • Dropout – haven’t dropped out
      • Discipline – haven’t participated in specific disciplinary infractions like bringing incendiary device to campus

Mid-year GPA - DPI has not provided a midyear GPA calculation and Transcript.  The current NC Weighted and NC Unweighted GPA Calculations in PowerSchool do not include Semester 1 averages for yearlong courses.  This causes inaccurate GPA information for any student who is schedule in a yearlong class.  The schools are also not able to produce an accurate class rank list.
·              The PowerSchool software does not allow grades to be included on the transcript until the course is completed.  They can  add the course to the transcript (through a specific procedure); but, the grade cannot be  included.  This is how the software works in all locations where it is used as an entities student information system.
·              School districts have requested that a grade be included before the course is complete.  There are no current requirements for mid-year GPA calculation in statute or Board policy; therefore, this was not included in the State’s required deliverables for PowerSchool.
·              Without a grade, an estimated GPA cannot be calculated.  Without an estimated GPA, you cannot create an estimated class rank.
·              DPI is researching and working with Pearson to identify the changes necessary to allow interim grades for year-long classes (not completed) and how they can be outlined on a transcript.

PMR - DPI has not been successful in providing the ability for a school district to accurately run and approve the Principals Monthly Reports
·              The PMR has been completed.  We are now working on allotment adjustments and projecting ADM for FY 2014-15.

Dropout - The Dropout Report does not exist in PowerSchool
·              The dropout report is missing two key fields from the Previous Enrollment Screen within PowerSchool.  These fields will be added during the March 14 maintenance weekend.  The fields are Dropout Reason and Dropout Verified indicating the LEA has validated the student is a dropout.
·              DPI and SAS are creating reports which include the appropriate Dropout data for review including prior year data elements that are required for the report. 
·              This all should be completed by the end of March.  This is a transition year issue and will not be the process in future years (because prior year data will be in PowerSchool).

RPG – (Retention, Promotion, Graduation) an RPG report does not exist in PowerSchool to date
·              This is a system issue.  This report compares where a student was the previous year with where they are this year. The historical data for prior years needs to be loaded into PowerSchool to make this report useful.  Significant conversion issues have been encountered with bring in this data into PowerSchool.  We are looking at ways of correcting conversion problems or how we can utilize eSis (NC Wise) to try and avoid requiring districts to enter the data directly into PowerSchool.  This is a transitional year issue and will not be an issue in future years.

SAR - The student Activity Report does not exist in PowerSchool
·              This report requires two system issues to be resolved before it is 100% operational
·              The software needs to be able to manage cross enrollment between school districts (taking courses in multiple LEAs).  This ‘fix’ is currently in DPI quality review and, if passed, will be in production soon.  This ‘fix’ will also enable virtual school enrollment through PowerSchool (currently the registration process continues as it was in previous years).
·              Extended course attributes (properly defines courses at a detailed level) are being added to PowerSchool by Pearson.

Gradebook - Teachers assigned to a large number of sections.  The gradebook will not load for these teachers.  If it does load, it does not always function as expected.  The grade scale may not be attached, the teachers may not be able to save the grades, and they may not be able to make changes to grades that are already entered.  Dropdown boxes may not populate with the choices.  In elementary schools, the standards may or may not be listed or populate as expected. Teachers with a large number of assignments experience issues similar to teachers with large number of sections. Teachers that have had a large number of students dropped from sections experience issues similar to teachers with large numbers of sections. Grade Scales are not always attached to the sections; however, the grade scale is set up for the course appropriately in PowerSchool.  Other teachers with the same course have the grade scale attached. Poor/Slow/sluggish performance.  Users must save frequently, the saving function is slow. Grade Scales are not always attached to the sections; however, the grade scale is set up for the course appropriately in PowerSchool.  Other teachers with the same course have the grade scale attached. Gradebook freezes so it requires the teacher to shut down and restart.  Therefore, data entered and not yet saved is lost.  Also, Gradebook freezes when saving grades, so data is lost. Gradebook will not launch.
·              Issue with gradebook not loading for teachers with large number of sections should be fixed in March maintenance weekend (March 11).
·              No one has reported the other issues that Wake mentions. However, we might assume that these issues will similarly go away after the March maintenance weekend. We are asking for additional information.
·              Exception – “gradebook won’t launch” issue has not been replicated outside of Wake

EOG/EOC - EOG/EOC test scores are not in PowerSchool
·              EOC historical test scores were made available to import before 12/31/13. EOGs – Feb/March.
·              12-13 test courses were never in eSIS and will be made available to import in Feb/March.

Historical Data - No historical data for any student exists in PowerSchool from the 2002-2003 school through the 2011-2012 school year.
·              Historical data for students active in 2012-13 have been imported into Powerschool.
·              Data for students active until before 2012-13 are currently being uploaded into ODS.

At-Risk Report - The At Risk Report does not function in PowerSchool
·              More information is being requested from the school district. It appears to be the discipline part of the report that requires a software adjustment to target incidents.

NC Diploma - Not all NC Diploma tracts are present in PowerSchool
·              Future Ready Core (FRC) diploma path is available in Powerschool
·              The non-FRC paths did fail testing, but we are expecting them to pass a second round of development/testing within the next couple weeks.

NC Transcript - The NC Transcript does not display the true graduation date, but rather displays an expected date
·              Student’s actual graduation date can be entered on “student academic screen”

Historical data for transfer students - When transferring a student into WCPSS, none of the historical data for that student get transferred
·              All immunization and demographic info has been transferred
·              Historical grades and related fields will be brought over in March maintenance release provided it passes QA

If you're still reading, you're a PowerSchool die-hard. So here's what Jay Parker with CMS reported:

Athletic Eligibility
We cannot determine eligibility with the PowerSchool application at this time. The functionality does not specifically meet requirements nor does the logic on work around processes defined by DPI meet the needs of LEA’s for eligibility. CMS created local reports to meet business needs at this time.

Inadequate Progress
Districts have not been provided a procedure or report within PowerSchool  for NC DMV eligibility of student drivers.

Mid-Year graduation/GPA
The functionality does not exist within PowerSchool to produce transcripts with this mid-term criteria reflecting .5 credit and GPA calculations. At the Symposium, DPI indicated this would be provided soon for use with schools. (no ETA)

PMR functionality did not work until February 7th, 2014 maintenance weekend, creating a timeline for districts to resolve fatal exceptions to enrollment data with approval by February 20th. We are still not comfortable with the warnings within PMR as rendering correct logic for enrollment counts; however, we continue to analyze this each day.

Drop out Report
This does not exist at this time. I am seeing communications of this arriving soon by Ken Gattis (DPI business owner) and functionality of reporting to follow.

Retention, Promotion, Graduation report does not work at this time in PowerSchool.

School Activity Report that determines both classroom to teacher ratios and highly qualified teachers for instruction is not functional at this time. CMS has work around reports and external custom built applications performing this action. DPI has not implemented the code for this to be active.

Electronic Gradebook
We do not have the same issues as Wake due to not using the standards based features with CMS gradebooks.  The grade scales, assignments, and report cards all work, even parent portals reflect the same information.

Class rank and GPA
Both work in CMS due to the effort of reviewing and modifying historical grades.

There is still a transcript issue. At the last maintenance weekend, many of the corrections to course history that were made by counselors were lost in the weekend.  This means we have not been able to run new GPAs in HSs. 


Anonymous said...

Please tell me how the AD told my son he was ineligible to play for his High School team ?

As I read it, they are not able to use the system. What is going on ?

Anonymous said...

Power school, is weak!!

Wiley Coyote said...

I guess I missed the part about demographics, poverty and school lunch data from CMS.

CMS has no data, but evidently they know exactly who gets free - lunch, school supplies, testing, sports, etc.

You can't make this stuff up.

Maybe Jay Parker is an abberation.

Anonymous said...

I would look into it. This is not CMS. This is dam Raleigh.. Crazy NC

Anonymous said...

With all the burocrats, non teaching teaching positions and Koolaid drinkers in offices down town, the last thing to worry about is free lunch.

Anonymous said...

I was hoping Heath would change the culture of downtown. The Ivory tower of CMS. When sneaky Pete left, I had hope. "new boss same as the old boss"

Anonymous said...

Can't. blame the mess for this. This is all Raleigh.

Anonymous said...

It's time to fix this place. Since I have moved here, it's been the same crap. Parents and teachers need to work together and come up with common sence solutions. We need to take our schools back. Mcory, Tillis, Heath and Raleigh must go.

Anonymous said...

I have never had a problem with one of my children's teachers. I can't say the same for anyone else on that list. The Feds need to leave our schools as well.

Unknown said...


Would like to know if PowerSchool or Home Base causing any problems with the creation of the next budget?

Bolyn McClung

AlphaMikeFoxtrot said...

Sounds lie every HS senior in NC who is denied admission due to PowerSchool screwing up GPA's would have grounds for a class action suit vs. Pearson.

Shamash said...

Anon 8:07pm.

"Please tell me how the AD told my son he was ineligible to play for his High School team ?"

From article:

"Only those determined to be ineligible are listed on the report. "

Shamash said...

Sounds like the state of NC screwed up by rushing into this thing.

Pretty stupid to expect features that weren't promised until 2014 to have been working BEFORE then.

Typical software rollout by fools and burrocrats, if you ask me (with 20+ years software/hardware experience).

But, hey, what would I know?

Anyway, SC is using the system and doesn't have as many problems, do they?

So some of these "system" problems are apparently not part of their "system".

Why's that?

In any system, there's hardware, software, and wetware (people).

Methinks this is mostly a wetware problem.


Don't turn off the OLD system until the NEW system is running correctly.


Would you trade in a working car for one that was still in the shop?

Of course not, unless you're a fool.

Anonymous said...

Your son was ineligible because the standards required to play were not there. The AD's at all schools had a workaround even if it meant looking at each student's grades and attendance!
Yes, this is a Raleigh issue. If you read the first of the article, CMS directors were saying it shouldn't be implemented in the time frame that the state pushed. It took CMS 3 years to implement NC WISE on its own-no help from DPI! PowerSchool was pushed in 10 months to the entire state using a product that has been equated to the vanilla version of what NC and DPI demanded.

Anonymous said...

What NC candidates received money from Pearson during their campaign?

Anonymous said...

Is Mcory the "CEO" going to hold anyone accountable or protect his cronies like usual? Didn't Tillis work with computer companies? Mmmm crazy NC

amyo said...

Great point, anonymous 12:42.

Our state and schools have been taken for a ride by the technology industry. We have slowly allowed this industry to have a greater share of the say about what we do in schools, because they were the only ones offering up money during the lean years. Now that they've convinced school systems that having E-textbooks is better, taking tests on computers (and lots and lots of tests, mind you) is better, and that buying electronic devices is a higher priority than providing funding for teacher assistants--we're kind of over a barrel. Right where they want us. Schools are enormous consumers, and are training up little consumers to willingly hand our hard-earned dollars over to tech corporations, with shockingly few questions asked.

Anonymous said...

November is coming...

Wiley Coyote said...

December is coming too.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

We JUST HAD a November and the same status quo types were re-elected to the CMS BOE.

Anonymous said...

Newsflash, The NC Legislature is still going to base offering four year contracts to 25 percent of the state's teaching force based on bad statistical data and model. While at the same time complaining about how unreliable the data is? So, who loses out in the end "teachers!"

Anonymous said...

Return to the highly successful "separate but equal" schools.

When schools in the south integrated it was blacks (not whites) who refused to integrate with whites but the media liberal social engineers always left out that part and became revisionists.


Anonymous said...

by Thomas Sowell

Back in 1899, in Washington, D. C., there were four academic public high schools-- one black and three white.1

In standardized tests given that year, students in the black high school averaged higher test scores than students in two of the three white high schools.2

Anonymous said...

The BOE has Republicans and they to agree Tillis and Mcory are making a mess of things. Other districts with overwhelming conservative members are shaking their heads. I am a conservative but the all out war on teachers is crap. The pay is crap and anticompetitive. The new raise for younger teachers only, is another slap in the face to teachers.

Anonymous said...

Teachers get a raw deal in NC..

Anonymous said...

8:31, let me add something to your point. A study done after integration, and of course hidden from much publicity which was part of a UNCTV documentary about Horace Mann, pointed out that most of the black teachers not rehired into the integrated schools had PhD's from the black universities. Back then, black universities turned out doctors, lawyers, dentists, teachers and a few other professionals. But in the numbers of degrees, they turned out a far higher proportion of teachers with PhD's. Most white teachers were suburban housewives with college degrees but far fewer in proportion were PhD's.

So as we can see looking back, we as society could not have done a worse job of integrating a group into society than we have for the black people. But you know that is okay because so many "noble" people received mass media attention, back slaps on the church steps, and revered by the liberal darlings of politics and society. And as has been published in much research like "Uncle Sam's Plantation", there has been no better set of programs to suppress the advancement of black people than the American welfare system. As has been documented by Daniel Moynihan, the deliberate destruction of the negro family has had negative generational impacts. And you all should know of the initial creation of Planned Parenthood.

Anonymous said...

3:15 You are right on the money!

Ironically, all the technology is not helping our children learn better or more.

Anonymous said...

The system still doesn't work. Two of my child's grades were not calculating properly. I questioned the teachers and they agreed . It was a difference between an a and b. which can be big scholarship $ down the road. So many scholarships are based on class rank. I can assure you I would take it to a higher level if the teachers did not get it fixed. This implementation is about on course like the health care reform roll out. Why are these people not held accountable for their poor decisions in trying to roll out a system before it is ready? I glad cms saved 2 million to roll out it a year too soon...Pearson how hard is it o calculate grades? I wrote an excel spreadsheet in 5 minutes that actually calculated the correct grade!!!!!!!!