'Unpardonable': Faulty IT system vexes college-bound County seniors

Now is a crucial time for parents and their college-bound high school seniors, but problems with a new high-tech student information system Albemarle unveiled last year have added more stress to the process. What's more, County school officials have known about the problems since last year.

Last November, in preparation for a meeting with the central office about the new system, staff from Monticello High School brought with them dozens of complaints, one of which predicted the spring debacle.

"We can't print transcripts [with the system]," wrote one student councilor. " In January we will need to send updated transcripts to colleges that list the grades earned by seniors. Transcripts were supposed to be useable by Wednesday November 3, but that didn't happen."

According to frustrated parents, problems with the systems have adversely affected the college application process, causing transcripts to be sent out late and with mistakes.

"I was told my son's transcripts were sent out incorrectly," says Cydney Simko, whose son, Alex, a senior at Monticello High with a 4.7 GPA, has already submitted applications to 12 colleges. "I was told the tech system was new and is still being programmed as they go along."

"When I found out the first week of March that mid-year transcripts had not arrived at the colleges, I was stunned," says another Monticello High parent, who is also a County elementary school teacher. " No student’s application should have been missing a transcript at that point."

As a parent preparing for the final, and perhaps most important stage of her child's student life, that was not welcome news. Indeed, a school councilor working with Simko called the mistake "unpardonable."

In July 2010, the County implemented a system called GradeSpeed, provided by a company called SchoolNet, for an upfront cost of approximately $47,000 and an annual maintenance fee of approximately $48,000. That's in addition to the County's existing contract with SchoolNet for other information services, which was purchased at an up-front cost of $750,000 in 2005 and comes with a $150,000 annual maintenance fee.

The new GradeSpeed system is supposed to track student performance by allowing teachers to create schedules, enter grades and other data, track progress, and communicate with parents.

In February 2010, County School Superintendent Pam Moran, who earned a national "Tech Savvy" award last year, touted SchoolNet's "exemplary service" and said that the system would "add significant performance value."

That assessment may need modification. Asked if there were issues with the new system, Maury Brown, Communications Coordinator for the County school system, didn't hesitate.

"Absolutely," said Brown."The Board has been monitoring the problems closely."

Brown admits that dozens of students and their parents have been affected. A report on the myriad problems with the system can be found on the Albemarle County Schools website.

"There have been some serious problems with our new student information system," admits Steve Koleszar, chair of the Albemarle County School Board, who says that while the Board became aware of the problems last fall and worked hard to address them, "There are still a number of outstanding issues."

As one MHS teacher remarked, it took four hours to mark 125 students excused from school for a field trip.

"You have to switch between SchoolNet SIS and GradeSpeed to access student information," the teacher said. " This takes three extra clicks for each student."

Retied Western Albemarle teacher Mark Crockett takes it a step further, not only calling the SchoolNet system ridiculously expensive and of  "little practical utility to teachers," but a money-making tool for SchoolNet.

"SchoolNet is more of a management tool than it is an instructional tool," says Crockett.

Crocket has argued for years that SchoolNet is inextricably linked to Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), which requires schools to collect student performance data.

Indeed, according to one of the company's own press releases, in the first five years after NCLB was passed into law revenues shot up 1,781 percent.

According to Brown, only 45 percent of the system's functionality was operating properly when the school year started; after months of fixes, it's up to 60 percent. Problems have included grade point averages reported as lower than they actually are, excessive or missing absence reports, duplicate academic histories, and incorrect information about immunization compliance.

And worse.

Last summer, Simko's son studied at a program at prestigious Stanford University, one of his college choices, but she says she learned the wrong institutional ID was sent out, indicating that her son had instead attended a small Bible school in New Zealand.

With the system failing to provide accurate transcripts, some schools held off on mailing them out to colleges in an effort to make sure GPA calculations were correct. However, Simko learned that Monticello waited until March 1, too late for colleges that need midyear transcripts. Transcripts were then hastily emailed and faxed to colleges that might still be considering students.

Additionally, as Simko found out, the system does not include all SAT scores on transcripts, just the most recent ones. However, most colleges "superscore" by taking the highest reading, math, and writing SAT scores from different test dates and combining them. While colleges still require students send in “official” score reports from the College Board, Simko thinks the omissions could confuse busy admissions deans.    

Albemarle advisory staff have been scrambling with emails and faxes to make colleges aware of the mistakes, but as Simko points out, many institutions have already made their decisions.

"Did this affect my son's applications? I don't know for sure," says Simko, "but my son has worked very hard, and he doesn't need a glitch in a computer system to get in the way of his chance to get into the college of his choice. "

"I will be furious if my son gets a number of “denies” over a faulty system that the county bought," says the anonymous teacher and parent. "And I hold the Superintendent’s Office and the School Board accountable for making such a haphazard purchase."

Updated 3/15/2011

Read more on: albemarle county schools

55 comments

I found out the hard way that parents need to double check the accuracy of everything sent to competitive colleges, who are overwhelmed with applications from stellar students. A small error could make all the difference.

This really sucks. We talk about all the kids that are doing the wrong things with their lives, and here we have kids doing all the right things. And guess what - the school system lets them down. Who is in charge of dealing with the vendor, and why have improvements taken so long?

The county schools are an absolute joke. They cut teachers, increase class sizes, and force remaining teachers to teach an extra class in order to save money but at the same time they waste hundreds of thousands of dollars on a computer system that is difficult to use, filled with bugs, and that hinders student chances of attending prestigious colleges. Way to be, "World Class."

This county is a total joke.

Mr/Mrs/Miss icenine, the entire public school system is a joke. Nationwide.

Sounds like the problem is with a software package the school purchased. The story hardly supports the hyperbolic knee-jerk negativity of the above comments.

There's an old rule: Caveat Emptor. Anyone relying blindly on a software package for something as important as college applications for their child may be book-smart, but they sure do lack common sense.

There's another old rule and it's known as Murphy's Law. Sounds like albemarle county school software is not exempt from this law.

People desperately trying to find fault with any government expenditure are able to do so as a result of this story, but it sounds like the problem is fixed with a software patch.

It would be a real shame if someone's college application is adversely affected, but people should know to double check important documents like that. I assume that no one forced these people to use this software for this vital task; they should take some responsibility for their own lack of due diligence.

The software is in the school system, there is not another choice. So each parent should go down and check the print out before the schools send them out.

meanwhile, there's an old rule: read the story before commenting.

Col. Forbin, I did read the story, but I guess my comment was incomplete.

Have incorrect transcripts ever been sent out by school systems not using this software?

Since the answer is obviously "yes", this shows the inanity of this "news" story.

Sometimes bad things happen to good people. That's rough, but that's life. The comments preceding mine were hyperbolic and downright silly.

If you feel a software glitch leads inevitably to the conclusion that ", the entire public school system is a joke. Nationwide." then I would suggest that your reasoning and cognitive abilities are far below what I would hope for a mature adult.

I stand by my comments and believe that they are absolutely germane.

Funny how when a kid doesn't learn it's the school's fault, but when he excels the school is somehow an innocent bystander in his education.

The problem with schools today is the plethora of below average kids that inhabit the classrooms. They take up too much of the teacher's time and bring down the test scores, etc for the school system as a whole. Private schools, which don't have to accept below average kids (and as a rule, half the kids are below average), don't have this problem. I will let the readers of these comments decide where the other commenters to this story fall on the bell curve.

Albemarle County Schools are very good. Don't let the above comments fool you. The student with a 4.7 presumably went to Albemarle County Schools and is applying at prestigious colleges. Yes there were mistakes on his transcript and that's regrettable, but what you don't hear is his mom wishing that he went to Buckingham or Charlottesville High School.

This is more than "sometimes bad things happen to good people." These students have been working hard for years, taking rigorous AP course and enrolling in classes at UVA, as well as participating in numerous extra curriculars and volunteer activities. Is it really too much to ask that Albemarle County send out mid-year reports in a timely fashion so that their college applications can be considered? Isn't sending the reports the responsibility of the school system? My son, like Alex, has applied to numerous highly selective institutions. It is incredibly frustrating to find out that schools did not receive mid-year reports by the deadlines.

meanwhile, in your original post, you say, "Anyone relying blindly on a software package for something as important as college applications for their child may be book-smart, but they sure do lack common sense."

SchoolNet software is used by school systems to, among other things, send student transcripts to colleges. So, again, I think you've misinterpreted the story. This is not software a parent purchases for "their child," but something a county purchases to manage student information for the entire district. If the county system is sending the incorrect transcripts to colleges, how is that the fault of the parents? They have nothing to do with it. Students may not submit their own transcripts. Those have to be submitted directly from the school system.

If you are saying that the employees of the school system should have checked the transcripts, I agree with you there. That is indeed their responsibility to ensure that the correct information is being transmitted.

Furthermore, I do not agree with the comment that the school system is a joke. I did not write that.

Have a good one.

I agree with parent. This is very important information. If there is a member of the school board reading this, we would very much like to know who was responsible for the transcripts not being sent on time and what the board intends to do about it.

Why is nobody addressing the issue that we already have a huge IT department staffed by reasonably well-paid personnel? What are they doing all day long? Why are we constantly outsourcing programs and activities that should be performed by staff?

You're right, Col. Staff should have performed the due diligence and failed.

Here's hoping that no students' admissions were adversely affected!

It is my understanding that staff tried to get transcripts out on time, but was unable to do so. I have been told that all of this was reported to the Superintendent's office, to members of the tech team and to the School Board, and concerns were not taken seriously. It is a very serious matter to the students and their families. I only wish the school had come to parents to tell us it was happening. The issue could have been brought to the public sooner and maybe our children would not be in this situation right now.

MESSAGE TO THE SCHOOL BOARD: Do away with Grade Speed. Stop throwing money into a program that is flawed.

This has been my experience. One of the colleges I applied to apparently were never even mailed my original transcript; it one of the seven that I paid the school $2 each to mail. Not only that, but multiple colleges have sent me letters saying they need my midyear reports and haven't received them, even though there are now only two colleges on my list that haven't started sending out acceptances and rejections.
If this glitchy system screws up my college chances, I will be -- for lack of a better phrase -- pissed off.

Wait a minute. This is ground breaking! Do you mean that insanely complex software which is expected to process millions of bits of data a month has had glitches in getting off the ground? WHOA! We need to call the president and do a march on Charlottesville. I have never heard of custom software being problematic! Furthermore, it appears that MISTAKES have been made by the district, and that in fixing the problem, further mistakes have been made. WHOA! I did some research, and apparently other human beings in other educational systems make mistakes as well! No kidding! Before you know it, we'll start finding that kids are dropping out and getting pregnant before they have been wed before God. This is a real shocker. I need a stiff drink.

Is there a hard copy option that students might choose instead of this buggy system? In other words, is use of this mandatory?

@offwtheirheads: I doubt you would find this so funny if it was your child in this situation. After spending hundreds of dollars on tuition for UVA courses (in order to take the "most rigorous" courses), AP tests, SAT/ACT tests & score reports that are sent to each college applied to, college app fees, UVA transcript fees (to send to each college applied to), MHS transcript fees, college visits, etc., it is incredibly frustrating to have college admission decisions come down to a "glitch in the system," especially when the county knew for months that the system is flawed.

I understand that mistakes happen, but this could have been prevented.

@Jack M. Sadly, Albemarle County prints the transcripts from the flawed system. Therefore the "hard copies" were also flawed. At MHS they actually send transcripts and mid-year reports by the US Mail and were only able to get mid-year reports mailed last week.

Sigh...the over educated, totally lacking any common sense, (too) highly paid individuals ultimately responsible for this probably won't suffer ANY consequences as a result of this debacle. My sincere sympathies go out to the young people and parents having their lives and future screwed with by what appears to be totally uncaring individuals (if they truly cared this article and my response would not be here now). The exact word is escaping me at the moment but "unpardonable" sure seems too weak.

OFFwTHEIRheads - I generally try really hard to refrain from this...but you are a jack you-know-what (you know, the tookus or the animal). These are peoples lives being screwed with by people that are SUPPOSED to help them.

parent: thanks for the response. I'm wondering (a) if students (and their parents) have the ability to request official copies on a regular basis; and (b) if students/parents can request corrections; and (c) if they can submit corrected materials directly to the colleges.

It sounds like administration needs to be better advised on how to implement a new system, prior to taking down a previously used one. The term “paralleling” exists for a reason. Until the new system meets all requirements for a reliable time-period, the old system stays in place. A reliable time period can only be defined as a time-period during which every possible occurrence has been tested and proven successful. In this case, nothing less than one school year should’ve been an acceptable trial-period, during which all issues are identified and addressed. 100% of the issues discovered during a trial-period, should be fixed, prior to taking down an old system.
Certainly there is a back-up of the data that was housed in the previously used system. If the new system was showing complications early-on, and they weren’t paralleling, then all teachers should’ve been instructed to keep manual grade-books until further notice. Transcripts could have been produced with a combination of printed data from the old system, and manual data from this school year, regardless of the man-hours needed to make it happen.
It sounds like decisions were made at the administrative level with very little input from the customer/user.

@Jack: In the past I have asked for (and received) a copy of the transcript at the end of each school year. With my younger children, I will be sure to ask after each semester, although the system likely won't update it that frequently. Parents can ask for corrections; at this point, though, it is too late for some colleges. They have made their decisions. Colleges want the "official transcripts" to come directly from the high school, so even if a parent was able to send a copy, the school would still need to get the official copy out.

@ Lynn – it sounds like you're a part of the school system since you refer to them as "we". If so, you should do some research before you post a comment attacking your IT department, which has nothing to do with student ASSESSMENT\INFORMATION software. The only IT department that can be held accountable for this is the developer’s. ( Schoolnet)

You should take the time to read your Superintendent's funding request. Your Assessment & Information Services department has only 11 people to support 1,400+ staff and 13,000+ students. That's the equivalent of a high school secretarial staff, which is only required to serve the teachers and students in one school.

According to your system’s funding request, your "huge" IT department has only 24 people to serve 1400+ staff and 13,000+ students in 30 different locations, and all of the equipment assigned to each. I wonder how long a private company would survive if they provided their customers with the latest & greatest equipment, but as a trade-off they could only offer a 600:1 Customer to Service Technician ratio. If your IT department is outsourcing, it sure sounds justifiable to me.

You should be asking your Superintendent why she's requesting a reduction of support to an area that should be steadily increasing manpower, to serve teachers and students and enhance their use of the equipment she requires them to have. Or better yet, ask the governing board why they are approving a request that will result in more unused equipment in your schools due to a lack of technical support available to the teachers and students.

Is a reduction to Technology really acceptable in any public school system right now?
A reduction in new equipment purchases? YES.
A reduction in support? NO WAY.

In speaking to school administrators, it appears that it's not always apparent that there's something wrong--I questioned the report card for my son that was created through the system, and when they checked they found that in different places in the system, he had two different sets of grades. Since I brought it to their attention, they were able to fix, but if I hadn't questioned it, my son's report would have shown two different sets of grades in two different places, and who knows how this would have been reconciled down the road.

My sense is that the teachers and principals have been tearing their hair out over this, and the software company should have been proactive in a) beta testing prior to use and b) creating a backup system FOR the college transcripts. Since transcripts MUST come from the school, and students CAN'T send out their own, the administration should have taken precautionary measures, since they knew in advance that there was a problem, and the software company should have worked overtime to fix BEFORE transcripts were due. The county should make some demands of this company, I'd say--like having company execs personally hand-deliver to admissions offices the corrected transcripts for every graduating senior who is at risk of losing their opportunity to attend the college of their choice?

Reply to Common-Sense from Lynn: Sorry, the "we" I was referring to is the Albemarle County taxpayers. I am certainly not employed by the County school system. My only involvement has been two children who, thank God, have graduated. And, sorry, maybe I responded before I read all the Superintendent's reports, etc., but there is a serious problem of top-heavy administration in central office. Too many chiefs, not enough Indians, and I think if you were to ask a lot of the Indians, they'll tell you that they don't receive nearly the support they should be receiving.

Gradespeed is a failure. It has moved us backwards as a division. We as staff brought these concerns forward beginning in the summer(when it was unable to do master schedule) and continued to do so all year. We were ignored and even chastised for complaining. Teachers and IT people in the building are the first folks to use something if it makes their jobs easier...this does not. These issues far beyond working out the kinks. Imagine driving a car that is 60% functional all year and you'll start to understand how we are feeling. Bottom line is the county got a "great deal" on this junk, we the staff are working out the kinks(all the while it calculates grades wrong, wrong GPAs, inaccurate course history, delays grade reporting, makes tracking attendance ineffective, the list goes on) and then the company will take our efforts and make some dough off it. It is actually a list...submitted by staff to central office and either edited to make things appear better than they were or simply buried when speaking to the school board which has only recent take any ownership.

The schedule for this year was done by hand, an almost impossible task in a comprehensive high school with 1000-1800 kids taking up to 8 classes. The company hid behind slow improvements and "working on that"but each grading cycle we discover more and more errors. And to think accountability is a buzzword in education. Many teachers don't even use it to do grades anymore instead completing calculating them like we used to. "Staff" responsible for transcripts can't even see information they need to and the old paper transcript system doesn't really exist anymore. Guidance was forced to add up credit for kids by hand trying to ensure graduation for kids(imagine banks keeping records by hand and you start t appreciate the complexity there). Given they have 300+ kids on their caseloads you can only expect so much so don't even think of blaming them. Using this stupid thing is like texting with a rotary phone.

From School Board(the teacher developed list was longer and easier to understand)
http://esblogin.k12albemarle.org/attachments/526a1e6e-e471-43d5-a489-401...

From July Conference held here at MHS
"Albemarle County Public Schools has embarked on an ambitious journey to implement a concept-centered, standards-based curriculum. Central to this effort is the Division’s ability to provide multi-level tools that connect high-quality assessment and instruction resources to the division’s curricular framework. Hear how this Division has used Schoolnet and other information management technologies to unify instructional management, information management and communications, allowing stakeholders to formulate actionable plans that inform instruction and improve student achievement through data-driven decision making. "-...wrong

Place blame where it belongs, every admin and official that let this happen. I hope they reap the whirlwind. No doubt they'll have a plan for how to wriggle out of this one and our trusty PR machine will spin it as needed. Sad for this kid and others affected, they deserve better. Gradespeed is linked to Schoolnet, an equally unimpressive educational tool. It ain't going anywhere and it is all flash, no bang. Only being used since we are being required to use it. A statistic which is then turned around and used to justify its continued use An SIS maybe better suited for a huge urban district with hundreds of schools. Maybe someone in the COB could learn one day to pick up a phone or hop in a car when they need to find out info. I like Alb parents idea. :) As an employee let me apologize on behalf of many of my fellow staff to those affected, not my fault, but you deserve better. A good litmus test would be is the person can't name some kids they work directly with...don't listen to them.

I usually don't appreciate when the school system is criticized in the media in our current school/teacher bashing climate but in this case thanks for this article and my hope is that some good will come of it.

As a teacher in the Albemarle County School System, I can verify that there are continuing problems with Gradespeed. The implementation did not meet minimum requirements to meet the needs of students, parents, and teachers.
Gradespeed was billed as an improved way to communicate with parents. Unfortunately, it is impossible to add more than one email contact per student. This makes it very difficult to send grades to both parents in the case of divorces and separations.
Basic functions of gradebook programs were programmed incorrectly. It was recently discovered that the semester averages for many classes were computed incorrectly. How difficult is it to have a database add two numbers together and divide the sum by two?
Gradespeed has decreased the options that teachers have available to track missing assignments, and tailor the way that grades are computed for their classes. Rather than making it easier to track progress and enable the teachers to spend more of their time planning the most effective ways to improve student learning, teachers have had to spend more entering and re-entering grades and working around the deficiencies in the GradeSpeed program. I am surprised that the article did not even mention the regular incidences of the database losing grades that were entered into the system. I have talked to many teachers who open up their gradebooks and discover that all of the grades they had entered the day before are simply gone.
There are excellent Grade Book programs on the market that have been tested and are well supported by experienced companies. One of the questions that needs to be asked (and perhaps even answered) is "Why did the County choose Gradespeed as the official grade book program for the school division?"

Follow the money trail, journalists!!! How many ACPS officials are "spokesmen" for Schoolnet? What about that CIO who resigned and went to NY state? He presided over this purchase and represented Schoolnet. He had his picture on their web site. Can you say "conflict of interest?"

As Yikes and MiddleSchoolTecher point out, there are severe problems with GradeSpeed and with SchoolNet. And school officials (and the Board) were made aware numerous times of the problems. They deliberately chose not to hear. They willfully refused to listen.

The problems originated with SchoolNet, which cost the school division a nice chuck of cash along with an annual maintenance fee. SchoolNet was developed by an investment banker and a conservative education "expert" who's never had a good thing to say about public education, although he did see an opportunity to profit from it through the perverse testing requirements of the No Child Left Behind legislation (itself a major debacle).

From the get-go, teachers complained about SchoolNet. It was cumbersome and time-consuming to use. There was little or no information gleaned from SchoolNet that teachers didn't already have or that they couldn't access more easily elsewhere. It was not an instructional tool (although that was how it was sold). At one county high school, former central office flack Luvelle Brown spoke to teachers at the beginning of the year about just how "great" SchoolNet was, but teachers had already found out how useless it was. At the end of his pep talk, he asked, "Doesn't this sound like something you can use?" The answer was a resounding "NO." But of course he chose not to hear.

Interestingly, on the SchoolNet website, a SchoolNet official referred to the county superintendent as "one of our own." And, rather than give credit where credit is due (to hard-working teachers), both central office personnel and the SchoolNet website say that – guess who? – SchoolNet and GradeSpeed are responsible for the county's Annual Yearly Progress success. It is an outrageous claim. Nothing could be further from the truth.

See: http://www.schoolnet.com/corporate/ResourceFiles/Albemarle-case-study201...

As to the claim by Gasbag and some others that public education is a "joke," that is an opinion that has no substance. That's not to say the public schooling doesn't have some problems, but generally we know where they are, what causes them and how to address them. And a heavy dose of standardized testing is not the remedy.

The first study of substance on the quality of public education came in the wake of "A Nation at Risk" the Reagan-era screed that warned of a rising tide of mediocrity" that threatened the nation's future. But the Sandia Report (officially titled “Perspectives on Education in America,” and published in the May/June, 1993 issue of The Journal of Educational Research) concluded that virtually every educational measure there ‘were “steady or slightly improving trends.” Moreover, “business leaders surveyed are generally satisfied with the skill levels of their employees and the problems that do exist do not appear to point to the K-12 education system as a root cause.” But the blaming had begun, and the negative perceptions created.

Recently, Bill Gates wrote a piece in The Washington Post reinforcing the negative, and inaccurate, criticisms of public education and public school teachers. People listen to Bill Gates, I suppose, because he has a lot of money. And while he may be “smart,” apparently he isn’t very honest.

Yesterday in The Post (3-11-11), researcher Richard Rothstein took apart the false and misleading claims made by Gates. This is serious stuff. The mainstream media are prone to print the negative, and they do a lot of it. But they are more reluctant to print the substantiated truth (and The Post has been especially egregious in this oversight, perhaps because it now derives most of its revenues and profits from Kaplan, its test-prep subsidiary). Rothstein provides the facts:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/school-turnaroundsreform/f...

Much of what we currently do in education makes things worse, not better. It makes the work of the teacher harder, not easier. It detracts from what authentic education is, and it undermines well-established principles of learning and motivation.

Quite sadly, too many so-called “leaders” go along with it all.

My child is a senior at Western. Over the years, she had a course recorded twice on her transcript, wrong grades and an incorrect weighted GPA. I learned with my first student to ask for a transcript every semester to catch the mistakes. However, it was not until my current senior student started receiving emails from the colleges she applied to that her MidYear transcript was missing, that I called her guidance counselor. They were scrambling to fix the mistakes and get them sent out manually. So for 240 students who each applied to multiple schools, sometimes 12 or 13, that is a huge amount of paperwork for the guidance office to go through and " fix" the mstakes. What did they use , White-Out? What really makes me mad? No communication about the problem with the students and parents so they could contact the colleges and let them know they were delayed. The transcripts could have been faxed earlier, while paper copies sent as a follow up. I hate to say it, but most final decisions are made in February. UVA has a cut off date of Feb. 15th for all information to be recieved. The ACPS feels no obligation for transparency. They never informed out students that their SAT scores would be on their transcript either. These kids work really hard. I sincerely hope that the "glitches" were all caught and these students don't suffer in the admissions process because of the jackassses at the County.

The Schoolnet staff
provides customized
attention and exemplary
service. I believe that Schoolnet
and GradeSpeed SIS will add
significant performance value to
any school district looking to
enhance learning results through
more informed data-driven
decision-making”
- Pam Moran
Superintendent
Albemarle County Public Schools

I wonder if she would have he same view now if her son/daughter were one of these students.

Thank you, parent, for recommending that we ask for transcripts every semester to keep track for ourselves. This is helpful. I hope your daughter is successful in her college applications.

oops... AYP is Adequate Yearly Progress, not the redundant "Annual Yearly Progress."

From the SchoolNet website:

Schoolnet has also helped bring the school community together.
“The integration and collaboration that is happening in our
schools has by far been the biggest impact Schoolnet has had in
our district,” says Chris Gilman, Coordinator of Research and
Program Evaluation at Albemarle County.

Yeah...and there's some really nice oceanfront property for sale in eastern Nebraska too.

I am curious if anyone has filed a class action suit against Schoolnet and/or Alb. Co. Schools.

democracy...well said.

frustrated - not yet but thinking about it

frustrated - not yet but thinking about it

Lawsuits are one of the few things bureaucrats understand.

Allegedly, this is what is taking place with SchoolNet:

"At a recent Board work session, the Board members chose to focus on how to support continued development of one technology tool solution, SchoolNet, to better support administrators’ and teachers’ needs in our contemporary schools. The Board financially and strategically has supported initiatives to increase access to real-time student learning data to inform instructional decision-making as close to the individual learners’ needs as possible. They want parents to be able to easily access information about their child(ren) so that teachers and parents can be on the same page and working in collaboration to ensure learning success."

The reality is something else.

Here's the link to the entire "viewpoint."

http://www.schoolnet.com/viewpoints/Customized%20Leadership/viewpointpos...

Notice the comments from some of the sycophants.

This program has far more problems than were addressed in this article. While it's supposed to facilitate communication & collaboration between stakeholders in a child's education, it has some serious glitches in this realm. For instance, one can only send an email copy of a student's grades to the one person who's listed as the parent in the School Net data for that student. This makes it needlessly time consuming & difficult to communicate with the other parent who may not be in the system and may not be living in the same household, or with special education teachers who are trying to make sure that the student is up to date on work. Additionally, the progress report for a student does not include exam or semester average information. Gradespeed has too many other issues to recount here, but here's a couple annoyances for a teacher. Data, such as text book numbers, just disappear from Gradespeed. I lost ALL my textbook assignments from the system. Some classes just seem to fall out of the seating chart function, and the function stops working for those classes. Extra credit is calculated in a very bizarre way. The list really goes on & on.

I don't understand why they buy these programs without researching if they are working well in the same setting somewhere else.

This isn't the first institution in the community to experience costly, and possibly life threatening problems with a software system purchased to improve efficiency. Just ask Region Ten what happened there and all the headaches they have had, or UVA which had to scrap tens of million of dollars of software and start over.

We applaud the age of electronic record keeping, but buyer beware if the system has no testing to show that it will work in the setting it was purchased for.

@Health Care Worker: my understanding is that there was a committee that DID check out various alternatives, and recommended a different one--one that was tested and actually works. However, it was more expensive, so the school system ordered this one based on price only. Sometimes, you get what you pay for.

Foolish decision if something has not been tested and shown to work it should not even be considered. I believe Region Ten did the same thing and walked into a complete mess.

Why would anyone do this I still can't understand buying a whole system that is so important for these agencies without excellent references demonstrating their efficacy.

There should be consequences for those that make such costly decisions.

@Health Care Worker: my understanding is that there was a committee that DID check out various alternatives, and recommended a different one--one that was tested and actually works. However, it was more expensive, so the school system ordered this one based on price only. Sometimes, you get what you pay for.

In reading the article and having the insight to understand it I just wanted to remind folks that it was this software that did not and does not work properly. It prevents people in the schools from doing their job efficiently or in some cases even effectively. I work with these kids, this software, with these people, and this is a county wide issue.

These are not issues unique to any school(granted this software has affected high school students and staff more). Staff were proactive at pointing out problems, looking for solutions and communicating information about the problems which they did not create. But it simply didn't work. Maybe the hardest part was that we as staff had to actually "have" the problem before anyone knew about it. (many gs trainers began entering fictitious data ahead of time and were trying to anticipate what would not work). Fixes were slow in coming and some will apparently never come.

Gradespeed is linked to "Schoolnet" as democracy mentions and that does in fact cost money. Not designed by and really even "for" teachers. In no way does it improve learning or teaching. Testing...maybe...but that is a stretch. It is a way to monitor teachers(and students). Other districts that use similar software are huge. We have 3 HS(4 counting Murray). How hard is it to reach out to an actual school or even contact a teacher?

My hope is that momentum will build and instead of just blaming the IT people in schools, or counselors, or pointing out that technology staff is overworked and the dept is underfunded(it is and so similar things apply to every county teacher), acknowledge that people in schools were crying foul long ago and nothing was done. Where is the accountability? Good people can make mistakes but what will we learn? One thing seems to be that past employees make convenient scapegoats.

If anyone has information about the problems and/or benefits of this IT system that ought to be further explored, feel free to contact me at dave@readthehook.com or by calling 434-295-8700, ext. 239.

Thank you

Dave McNair

I agree it was those that made the decision to purchase the software that are at fault and not the teachers or IT workers who once it was purchased tried to " fix" the problem. If the higher ups knew and did not take action they are the ones who are accountable. But my original complaint stands anyone who purchases these systems without complete confidence that they work well in a comparable setting should be fired.

I agree with Health Care Worker in that someone needs to be fired over this, but we also clearly need a solution (which does not appear to be a patched version of the current software).

UVA had to throw their whole medical electronic record keeping system out and start over to the tune of tens of millions - maybe it's time ....

What I find hilarious is the speed with which people tried to jump on the public employees for this debacle. This is a prime example of the "free enterprise private sector" (wholly dependent on public dollars for the existence of their market) doing the job "more efficiently" (ie, cheaper).

I do not think it makes good sense for the ACPS or any other public school to set up code shops in their own IT shops to actually write/create systems like this. However, let's be clear about who is eating up the taxpayer's dollars and failing to deliver - it's the for-profit private sector, looking for yet another public trough to feed on.

That is what "School Reform" is really all about - making our public schools into profit-centers for private corporations chasing public dollars. Lots of people - ideologues and theoreticians - have long claimed, in the absence of any real data - that the private sector incentive structure is more efficient: better quality and/or quantity goods for lower costs (less waste). Well, this is the concrete data, coming in.

@Democracy - nice catch!

That's a great point Scott and not only school reform but health care reform as well. Private companies claiming they can do it cheaper - paid with public dollars and walking away with millions completely unaccountable for the mess they made and causing the public institution to go back to the marketplace and start over.

@Scott, wow, what a crazy argument, do the private schools in this area buy junk like this system? No, because their very existence depends on all of the decisions they make, the public schools will seemingly always exist because they are funded regardless of the quality of the service they provide. Yeah, corporate America has ruined the public schools systems...did I mention your argument was insane and unsubstantiated?

Commenter "bill braske" calls the post by "Scott" an argument that is "insane and unsubstantiated."

But bill braske makes no substantiation for his rant. That’s because there isn’t any.

In fact, the current business-model of corporate “reform” is an outgrowth and extension of the for-profit school movement. Early for-profits included Edison Schools (Chris Whittle, Chester Finn) and Education Alternatives Inc. were advocates for “charter” schools and vouchers. These are part of what the corporate “reformers” advocate now. They want to tap the public treasuries for private profit (much the same way the big banks have.)

The current corporate “reform” model is pushed by The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, The Business Roundtable, and by groups like the Broad, Gates and Walton Foundations. They piggy-back with conservative organizations like the Hoover Institution (Caroline Hoxby, Chester Finn, Eric Hanushek) and the American Enterprise Institute (Frederick Hess) to produce “research” and “policy” reports, all of which promote charters and vouchers.

So-called “reformers” like disgraced former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee and Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp all have close ties with the foundations, and/or with corporate “sponsors” like Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

Not only do corporate “reformers” push policies for public education that have no research base, but they do so repeatedly. And they contribute big dollars not only to “reform” efforts, but also to politicians who might enact them. And they’ve been successful.

But their efforts are not really about education. They want to privatize public education.