Thursday, April 17, 2014

PowerSchool and NC schools: Work continues

A North Carolina blogger known as Lady Liberty 1885 turned up an interesting letter from big-district superintendents taking Pearson to task over problems with the start-up of the PowerSchool data system.

"Delays in report cards,  transcripts and attendance data have generated considerable negative attention from media,  resulting in districts being blamed for poor implementation,"  says the Feb. 21 letter from 10 superintendents,  including the leaders of CMS, Wake, Union and Gaston county schools.  "... Public goodwill has been severely damaged.  We need Pearson to accept responsibility for the challenges as we continue to address issues."

The superintendents ask Pearson to provide PowerSchool to N.C. districts at no charge next year,  saying the product will eventually be a good one but the one-year rollout,  which many of the district leaders predicted would fail,  has been a mess.  "We want a productive relationship with Pearson since the data system will be with us for many years,"  they say.

"Lady Liberty"
Neither the problems nor the frustration of district leaders is surprising.  T. Keung Hui of the News & Observer and I were among those giving  "negative media attention"  about the time that letter was written.  But Lady Liberty,  aka A.P. Dillon of Holly Springs,  a conservative/Libertarian blogger,  got some good details as part of a public records request related to PowerSchool.  She reports that she's still digging through four big boxes of documents.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Superintendent Heath Morrison said this week that Pearson's follow-up has been  "very good,"  including a visit to Charlotte last week to meet with him and Chief Learning Services Officer Valerie Truesdale.  (An email to the Pearson communications department has gotten no response.)  "They acknowledged many of the issues we have discussed all year and have promised to help with issues we continue to have, such as not being able to print report cards recently,"  Morrison said in an email.

Philip Price,  chief financial officer for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction,  agrees.  "While I would not state that the larger school districts are completely happy at this time,  I will state that we have addressed the items outlined in the posted letter (most prior to the date of that letter).  As we progress through the implementation year, new issues do arise; but we are pleased that we are not experiencing repeat issues."

But don't hold your breath for that year of free service.  The previously reported cost is $7.1 million a year.  While Pearson may be forced to provide some type of refund if it fails to meet agreed-upon levels of service,  the state Board of Education is asking for $6 million to cover the cost that would otherwise fall to districts and charter schools next year,  Price said.

Here's Price's detailed explanation,  for those who can follow it:

The request to have the software to be free for another year relates to the $4 per ADM charge to sign-up for the Home Base suite of products.  There continues to be confusion as to what the $4 charge is based on.  The software, maintenance, support, data conversion, and training are all free to the school districts and charter schools for all parts of Home Base (including PowerSchool).  We subscribed to some Pearson content that strengthened the Home Base tool with Science and Social Studies material for teachers.  This content is charged to the State based on the number of systems that access the content.  We are charged on a sliding scale based on use.  If 20% of the State sign-up to use the content, the charge is $8.30 per ADM.  If 95% sign-up, the charge will be $4.00 per ADM.  The General Assembly authorized the Department to make-up any shortfall from collections by using possible reversions (with authorization from the State Budget Office).  Therefore, we could stabilize the LEA and charter price at $4.00 for the length of the contract (5 years).

Since this content is based on use, it is difficult to eliminate the charge.  The State Board has requested that the Governor recommend and the General Assembly appropriate funding ($6 million) to cover the subscription content costs.  If funded, there will be no cost to the LEA or charters to participate in Home Base.

Our contracts do include service level agreements (SLAs) that set an acceptable level of service.  If those targets are not met, we do receive credits to our maintenance and support costs.  We are currently determining the amount of those credits.  We plan on refunding Home Base participating LEAs and Charters a portion of their $4 per ADM charge (if it is not appropriated), based on the amount of credits received.

There are several incorrect statements included in the write-up around the letter.  PowerSchool was designed and is supporting the entire State (the comments state that it was never intended to support the whole state). CEDARS has nothing to do with PowerSchool other than the fact that data will come from PowerSchool to CEDARS.  The contract w/Pearson does cover all the costs for implementation.


Anonymous said...

Millions upon millions of tax payer dollars spent on foolishness like this. And for what? Simply to put together a " punish the teacher" package. It's all included in new initiatives predicated on holding those BAD teachers accountable. Couple that with the hyper-testing and micromanagement from a bloated middle management and you have a sinkhole of waste. All while teacher morale is at its lowest ever, textbooks are falling apart, technology is broken, and no hope in sight for a pay scale that needs to be repaired after breach of promise by the legislature. Parents- why are you not holding these people accountable?

LadyLiberty1885 - A.P. Dillon said...

Thanks for covering this letter.
I found Mr. Price's answer a bit amusing and have updated my article accordingly.

Shelly said...

This entire program is a crock. EVERY time progress reports or report cards are due, the site is down for maintenance. It is ridiculous. All schools are either on 6 or 9 week schedules and they cater to schools. You would think they would know timelines. Pearson also is tied to Common Core testing and the new GED testing. It is all about $$$. They own education.

Anonymous said...

Pearson's incompetence has been force-fed to schools and taxpayers via the USDOE. Their tests, which determine the fate of schools and teachers, are poorly designed. They claim they don't release test questions for the sake of test security. This is false. The questions aren't revealed so the quality and validity are never called into question. Furthermore, Pearson can continue to make money on the test-prep materials they produce and sell. CCSS is nothing more than a business plan that allows Pearson to streamline their products; they can profit more by producing one set of products for 45 states rather than one set for each state. Why/how the USDOE has been allowed to enable this federal intrusion is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

When you are 46th (and dropping) in teacher pay trying to use testing data to threaten teachers will not work. When openings occur during the school year some positions cannot be filled. 3/4ths of NC teachers have to be hired from outside the state. Who would move here for the meager salary, lost tenure, no masters pay, higher cost of living than other southern states, and a governor who thinks paying a better wage for two years will fool them? The money used for Pearson and the testing beauracracy would be better served towards salaries, books, and bricks. Never thought SC would look enlightened comparatively. They are in the process of dumping all the tests.

Anonymous said...

Conservatives would like to see public school enrollment be made non-mandatory optional to eliminate babysitting teachers and about 50% of the unqualified students who care less about education of any type and only create disruption for the 50% who want to learn and become educated.
America is at the bottom of the 1st world nations today in just about everything.

Additionally conservatives would like to change the laws back to child labor legality that could be used as early as 5-6 years old as it used to be in industry in order to bring all the jobs back home.
Child labor was a factor in making America a super power and great nation that all ended in 1947.

Before child labor was outlawed and sent to 3rd world nations in Asia and South Americ, many tens of millions of children learned the value of a work ethic that stayed with them for life.
There were 2 parent homes, little violent crime, no gangs, minimal teen pregnancy or fatherless homes and communities stayed clean with self respect with socialist government subsidies. There was hope for all. Unfortunately this all ended.

By the 1960s the socialist liberal democrat power mongers in DC with the Great Society destroyed whole communities in all cities in America including business, churches, schools, etc and built Sec 8 high rise communist style apartments as families were ripped apart and the welfare state was born and has grown ever since with the national debt. Strong individualism was stifled as families were torn to shreds and major crime and ghetto decay with drugs and gangs festered along with teen pregnancy and welfare.

Going back to the future of hope taxpayers would save trillions and America would not only excel as number one again in the world in industry but also education plus be self sufficient and self contained without having to send 30 million industrial jobs to 3rd world sweat shops.

90% of everything in America today is exported from 3rd world nations made by child,teen and adult industrial labor. It would be pure hypocrisy to not allow this in America again to solve its many grave problems with the massive national debt, education and jobs problems.

America would easily regain its former #1 status in education and technology advancement etc and be on the road to super power and financial success for all.

The past 50 years have been disastrous in every way for Americans. This needs to change.
Insanity is defined as doing the same failed thing over and over with the same failed results.

Time is ripe for real change and real success for all. Time to go back to the future and erase the past 50 years of putrid failed socialism and family and societal destruction.
There is no other way. Its the only proven success formula for a free society. Socialism only destroys and makes government slaves of its citizens.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:00,
Personally I think the last 50 years stand as a testament to how far our society has evolved. Where even poor children, despite the best efforts of some, still have a chance to get an education and better their lives because of it. The last time I checked, few are trying to immigrate to South America, India or China, they on the other hand are coming here in droves for the chance at a better life.
Some people in this country need to stop complaining/whining and learn to appreciate what they have, because despite what some may think, we have it far better than most.

Anonymous said...

Pearson is a joke. These are the things was hoping Mcory, Tillis and Burger would fix but they seem to be on board with this and common core. Will the real conservative please stand up.. Just give teachers back there low pay and quit wasting money on this crap. I thought Bevvy was gone!!