Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Who's to blame for CMS data delay?

More than six months into the school year,  I still can't tell you the poverty level,  racial breakdown or school-by-school enrollment for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

The cause of that delay has become a point of contention between state and CMS officials.

Staff at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction agree that the troubled PowerSchool rollout delayed the principals' monthly reports that normally generate that information in September or October.  CMS officials say several schools were unable to run those reports for months.

But state officials say the hold-up is no longer on their end.  On Feb. 21, spokeswoman Vanessa Jeter said all the monthly reports had been run and the state was working with districts to clean up any final errors  (a clean-up that was needed in 0.0031 percent of all monthly reports, she said).

Last Friday,  she asked if I had gotten any numbers from CMS.  "I understand that their PMRs have been run, numbers double-checked with NCDPI-CMS staff and all came up correct,"  she emailed.  "That should clear the PMR issue in PowerSchool as far as I know."

Not so fast,  says CMS.  When I prodded again for the report,  spokeswoman Kathryn Block said Scott McCully,  executive director for student placement, had uncovered  some additional concerns with the reports.  "Scott is scrubbing the numbers one last time and, barring any additional issues, we will share the information early next week,"  she said.

"Also,"  she added,  "DPI confirmed that GRS report is not functioning statewide so there is no grade, race or sex data to share at this time for any NC school district."

Huh? That has always been part of the 20th-day report released in September or October;  each school and the district as a whole is broken down by grade level and race  (poverty levels come in a separate report tallied in October).

Jeter and Philip Price, chief financial officer for DPI, say it's wrong to say there's no race/ethnicity data.  There is a quirk having to do with reconciling end-of-month enrollment with average monthly enrollment,  they say.  That will be corrected during the next system maintenance weekend,  March 14.

And the state is looking into about 8,000 students across the state who were once classified as Hispanic but are not this year.  "That would represent .0053333 percent of the student body,"  Jeter reports.

"We do not believe this is an issue that distorts the data at a specific (school districts),"  Price wrote.  "The validation is important for federal reporting. We expect other corrections as we work to complete our federal reporting requirements. All this means, we have race and ethnicity data for all our students."

Bottom line:  We have a collision of two forces here.  There's little doubt that PowerSchool has created a battery of problems for local districts.  Meanwhile,  Heath Morrison was hired as superintendent in 2012 on the heels of a series of CMS data errors that embarrassed leaders and hurt the district's credibility.  He and his staff have been wary of releasing anything that isn't also available in state records,  forestalling errors but also making it unusually difficult to get data we've all gotten used to finding at the click of a mouse.  He says he doesn't want to post numbers only to have the state make a PowerSchool adjustment that requires CMS to retract its information.

So,  as soon as I know what the numbers looked like last fall,  I'll let the rest of you know.

Then maybe we can hope to see results of the 2014-15 magnet lottery, which should be sending notification letters about now.


Wiley Coyote said...

"Scott is scrubbing the numbers one last time and, barring any additional issues, we will share the information early next week," she said.

LOL... "scrubing the numbers".

You either have accurate data or you don't.

Also, was the question asked how Wake County seems to have data posted?

Do they use a different detergent to "scrub" their numbers?

Anonymous said...

Scrubbing=Obfuscation=Smoke and Mirrors, etc.

Anonymous said...

Remember when we used to be able to count manually, without depending on technology and gadgets to do our work for us? I do not understand how principals of individual CMS schools cannot get accurate data to those in the ivory tower. Stop the excuses CMS.

Anonymous said...

Ann Doss Helms -- Maybe it's TIME for us a a society to do AWAY with collecting DATA on Race, Poverty, and Free Lunch.

Why not just collect data on School Children's academic level, Schools and competence.

Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

From Ann's article this morning on the death of former East Meck principal Pop Miller: "Miller voiced frustration with being remembered as a black principal, rather than just a successful one."

While I realize that both the state and feds require the racial and poverty breakdown (which I agree principals should easily be able to provide) one has to wonder when and if this obsession with divvying everyone up by race and now poverty is ever going to end. I

Anonymous said...

When I voted for Mcory and Tillis, I expected a common sense approach to fix the top heavy mess that NC has become. I was hoping they would bring leadership and direction to our state. Being Republicans and believing in states rights, common core would be gone. Decisions would be local. Teachers would lose special protections but be given a hefty raise (to catch up for 6 years of loss) and a pay plane moving forward. what do we have? Excuses about what the Democrats did (just like Obama did with bush). Power school, being rushed in. 2 thirds of teachers without a pay raise or any plan moving forward. Common Core being forced on schools, that do not have the text or materials to meet the new standards. My sons teacher left during Christmas brake to take a job in another state. No one can blame him. What the hell is wrong with this state? Are we the only ones that owe money to the Feds for Medicaid? We have had a Republican controlled Congress for 2 years. Mcory has been in charge for over 1. All I hear is excuses. They came in bashing powerless teachers. Screwed up the master pay legislation. Took away career status but offered nothing in return. Created this weird 500 dollar to top 25% 4 year contract plan. Witch almost all parties involved agree, its more trouble then it's worth. What a mess. They are making it very hard to be a Republican.

Anonymous said...

9:33, for the most part I agree but teachers are government employees. I don't think it would nice to be one of them. 8:48 I to am disappointed with the current state of affairs. Only 1/3 of teachers where given a raise. I thought it was for all teachers. Disturbing

Anonymous said...

the blame? starts at the top as always.

Anonymous said...

Not in this state.. You blame Democrats, the guy below you or Medicaid...

Anonymous said...

Anon. 8:41. I agree. There was a time (I am not condoning going backwards) when African-American students and impoverished students were academically successful and VALUED their education. Each TEACHER measured EACH child and provided assistance accordingly. In addition academically successful students were "steered" toward college while others were prepared for much NEEDED vocational careers. INDIVIDUAL Student skills and interests were important. Today we are setting children up for failure. NOT everyone wants to go or can succeed in college. Let the teachers TEACH without micro managing or social engineering. Many of our students wish to help their families by having "shovel ready" jobs right out of (or in) HS. Bring back the PRIDE and watch our minority students soar and succeed. Unless of course...keeping us down and dependent is the REAL plan (the new slavery constructed by Democrats in sheeps clothing)

amyo said...

I don't want to apologize for the CMS data folks, and I do agree that it's taking an awfully long time to get the data out, but in a district as big as CMS, there really are issues with cleaning the data properly (e.g., removing duplicates for kids who enrolled at more than one school or were counted more than once at some point, resolving monthly averages with the 10-day count,handling changes in an individual student's ethnic or FRL data, etc.) You'd think it would be easy, but it's not. I once worked for a large school system in this capacity, and giving out even "simple" counts can be challenging because the data fluctuates day to day. Understandably, the CMS data folks don't want egg on their faces all over again, so they figure they'd better be late than wrong. And the PowerSchool issue really is problematic. I had to go to my kids' school last week because one of the kids had been tagged as absent on a day when he was present--the school secretary was kind, but clearly distressed about the fact that some issue with the new system was causing this to happen for many kids at the school.

Anonymous said...

Power school is a Raleigh issue. Top down NC at it's finest. Don't get me wrong, CMS is top down to.

Anonymous said...

A reminder...

FRL determines hundreds of billions of dollars in funding each year. It is imperative that we have data, regardless if the data is bogus.
It's hypocritical of CMS to claim they want Power School data to be accurate, when much of their data is false to begin with.

Wiley Coyote

Anonymous said...


Just more evidence that CMS is just too large and unwieldy for its own good.

Anonymous said...

Most teachers would agree.

Anonymous said...

FRL, kids parents fill out a form and give it to the lunch room manager. I think the managers work for a private company. How much control does CMS have over the process?

Anonymous said...

4:36, there has been talk about outsourcing food service for years but it hasn't happened. I am sure cafeteria staff are CMS employees. I am not 100 percent sure that they don't outsource FRL verification, though I've never heard that. Anyone know?

Wiley Coyote said...

Q: How is a student’s benefit level determined?

The Child Nutrition Office reviews applications and eligibility determination is based on USDA guidelines. Students may also be granted free meal benefits through the process of Direct Certification. Direct Certification is a process which allows CMS to obtain documentation from the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services (DSS) to determine the children who are members of a household currently certified to receive food stamps or TANF benefits and are therefore eligible for free meal benefits.

Attempts by Gjertsen and Gauvreau to get CMS to do a full audit as to who qualifies for school lunches and who doesn't was met with a threat from the USDA, that CMS' $34 MILLION in USDA funds would be yanked if they proceeded.

The National School Lunch Act does not specifically address the legality of a school district going beyond the 3,000 or 3 percent benchmark. The USDA, however, interprets the law to disallow a comprehensive verification. The 2008 version of the “Eligibility Manual for School Meals,” published by the USDA, says that school districts “must not verify more than or less than the standard sample size … and must not verify all (100% of) applications” (emphasis in original).

But according to at least one person there is no school lunch fraud:

“Poor people don’t know how to steal from the federal government. They’re not smart enough,” said school board member Vilma Leake.

According to the USDA, they overpay benefits by $1.6 BILLION per year.

I guess Leake didn't get that talking points memo.

Anonymous said...

Actually the FRL program is there to TEACH children how to steal from the government by at least learning SOMETHING from their parents.

Garth Vader said...

If a Charter school were this incompetent, ADH would have already published a 6,000 word front page series about it.