Tuesday, October 19, 2010


State Education Officials Decry Funding Veto

Jason Song – LA Times | http://lat.ms/6CpGxf

October 18, 2010 |  4:44 pm - Officials with the state Department of Education said Monday that a veto of $6.8 million in state funding for a student data tracking system could hurt California's compliance with federal regulations and make it difficult to track dropouts.

Earlier this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed nearly $1 billion in spending, including some funding earmarked for the development and support of the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, commonly known as CALPADS.

The state rolled out the long-planned tracking system nearly a year ago, and state education officials said it would help track student achievement on standardized tests, graduation rates and other data.

Schwarzenegger said in a statement earlier this month that CALPADS does not work well and contributed to the state not being awarded competitive federal funding. He also said the state Department of Education had been slow to develop an effective student tracking system.

Department of Education officials denied those charges in a conference call Monday and said the veto could hurt California's efforts to comply with federal guidelines in data reporting.

"It puts us in real jeopardy," said Keric Ashley, director of the Data Management Division for the department.

State officials also said the funding could make it difficult for the state to conduct a future "value-added" analysis, which estimates teachers' and schools' effectiveness in increasing student achievement on standardized tests.

Some experts and policy-makers have embraced the method as a way to bring some level of objectivity to teacher evaluations, which currently rest almost entirely on subjective metrics like observations. Others say it should not be used as the sole measure of a teacher's performance.

After the Times published a series of stories in August using a value-added analysis of seven years' worth of student test data, some state education leaders, including Schwarzenegger's education secretary, said they would urge local districts and the state to conduct more value-added analyses.

An up-to-date CALPADS system would be needed to conduct a state analysis.


More charges and blame over CALPADS: O'Connell says veto will disrupt and delay system

By John Fensterwald - Educated Guess | http://bit.ly/dhYa6K

Posted on 10/19/10 •Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell escalated his attack Monday on Gov. Schwarzenegger’s veto of money budgeted for completing the statewide student data system known as CALPADS.

O’Connell and Keric Ashley, the Department  of Education executive overseeing the contract to build the system, said that deleting nearly $7 million for the system would bring work to a halt next month, derailing progress while the Legislature debates whether or how to reinstate the money and jeopardizing completion of dropout data and other reports that the state is required to provide the federal government.

A document prepared by the department also stated that cutting money to oversee the contract of IBM, the vendor building the system, raised the possibility of “putting the contract in a state of limbo and exposing the state to potential claims of delay and mismanagement.” That’s an interesting twist, given IBM’s failure to meet its obligations over the past year.

Citing delays and problems with the system for more than a year as justifying the veto, Schwarzenegger said he was “concerned that the resources allocated for this purpose lack necessary accountability to ensure … a high quality” data system. He also crossed out money for a data system with information about teachers, the next phase known as CALTIDES. IBM also is in line for that contract.

In both cases, the governor reaffirmed the need for the data systems but called on the next governor and Legislature to decide who should oversee the contract.

Schwarzenegger’s veto message said there would be enough money to continue work on CALPADS through Dec. 6, which is when a new Legislature could convene.

But Ashley said that the money for the agency that provides advice to districts on uploading information for CALPADS would run out in November, leaving districts without help at a critical time.

He also said that it would take a minimum of a month, probably longer, for the Legislature to decide what to do with CALPADS. And that assumes that lawmakers consider straightening out the system a priority when they return in January, dealing with a new governor and a new budget. In the interim, nothing will get done, and the completion of CALPADS will be postponed. If the Legislature turns the contract over to someone else, like the Office of Chief Information Officer Teri Takai, even more time will be lost.

I couldn’t get the governor’s office to give me a point-by-point response to O’Connell’s arguments, and Schwarzenegger’s secretary of education, Bonnie Reiss, added more digs by sending out a press release quoting what newspapers and bloggers, including me, had said about how poorly CALPADS had been run.

So it’s hard to figure out whether the governor, with his veto, has made a big mess worse.

But this much is known:

  • CALPADS is already a year behind schedule. When O’Connell and Ashley state that 90 percent of districts have uploaded data and the system is up and running fine, they are referring to only one batch of data: enrollment and dropout numbers that were due in the fall of 2009. That is the data that the state and feds will use to finally calculate an accurate four-year graduation and dropout rate, so it is important. Starting this month, the state’s 1,500 districts and charter schools will upload the same information – known as Fall 1 – for the 2010 year. The deadline for submitting this year’s Fall 1 is Dec. 16, so conceivably closing down the state’s “help desk” before then could gum up the works for a few districts. But the deadline for submitting the information to the feds isn’t until September 2011.
  • Because of further delays, IBM is just now beta-testing Fall 2 – consisting of what courses students are taking and teacher assignments. The software release is supposed to be made available to districts on Dec. 6 – the day that Schwarzenegger decreed funding would cease. So districts may face delays uploading this data, which is due from them by mid-February.
  • IBM then has to do testing for the Spring data dump, consisting of information on English learners, and finally the all-important end-of-year data, with information on grades and course completions.
  • Holding up the contract to IBM for CALTIDES is probably a good idea, given all the problems with CALPADS.
  • IBM is still owed about half of its $13 million contract for CALPADS. It certainly now has an extra incentive to get it right.
  • A months-long disruption would be a huge setback; districts would probably wash their hands of the operation, which already has been a huge pain. But, despite O’Connell’s assurances, a big cloud still surrounds CALPADS. It may be time for new oversight of the system. What happens between now and Dec. 6 will  provide evidence for what the Legislature should do next.

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