This in-depth news story on the long and tortured road to a student information system is depressing. Like many of you, I have been waiting for a fully functioning student tracking system for a long time in Georgia.
Estimates vary on how much money the state has wasted on false starts and wrong turns in its efforts, but I think we could have given top teachers bonuses with the money –. and bought every one of them a Lexus.
This story has more officials promising that the end is in sight and that the right people are finally on the job.
I don’t know. We’ve heard it before and many million later, the system is still not 100 percent.
According to reporter Heather Vogell:
Good student data systems help educators spot trends and help schools identify potential dropouts in time to reach them. Georgia has a limited ability to do either, and is instead consumed with more basic tasks of collecting and managing the data.
“We are drowning in data and starved for information,” lamented notes in a draft PowerPoint presentation by the Department of Education obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
A source of strife since the 1990s, the student information system has served as a bludgeon for politicians to beat up opponents. It has roiled business leaders puzzled by the state’s failure to accomplish what they say should be a straightforward task.
And the project has baffled one software provider who says the state pays $308,000 a year for software it barely uses that could solve some of its biggest problems.
The reasons for the failings are hard to pinpoint. Some speculate the system wasn’t made a priority, or given enough money.
What’s clear is the project passed through so many hands, it’s hard to know who is most to blame for its troubles. The effort has spanned two state superintendents and three governors, a revolving state board of education and a host of state officials. Cox has wrangled with it throughout her two terms.
At issue is Georgia’s ability to build a data system with “longitudinal” capabilities, which allow educators to track students and their test scores, among other things, from year to year and school to school. It is a simple idea that has been difficult to execute.
This summer, U.S. education officials proposed rules for states competing for key federal “Race to the Top” funds. The grants would stress the importance of a longitudinal system and require states to remove legal barriers to linking students’ test scores to classroom teachers. States’ capacity to measure teachers’ performance will likely be a priority for the awards, federal officials said.
Right now, Georgia’s data system cannot link the test scores of students below sixth grade with teachers.
The state also still loses track of thousands of students a year when they transfer out of their districts or drop out. The AJC reported in June that the state’s data system showed no further records for nearly 20,000 students who were coded as having simply switched school districts last year. The glitch could signal problems with the reported graduation rate, which relies on an accurate count of dropouts
Heather did a great job untangling this mess. I would love to hear what you have to say.