A major overhaul last month of the state’s core student data collection system, CALPADS, led to data crashes and errors in many areas at one of the busiest times of the year. State leaders representing the districts told the state that some districts considered the system “unsuitable.”
The California Department of Education has acknowledged the frustration caused by the implementation, and says it is working to address the issues. But, expressing a common complaint, the administrator of one of the districts of Southern California said that the severity of the failure goes beyond fixes and inconveniences that are time consuming. Rick Roberts, executive director of Grossmont Union High School of Educational Technology, said the challenges affect the ability to administer smart balanced testing to some students and undermine confidence that CALPADS will accurately process information in the coming months.
“The end of the year (schedule) is under threat,” he said. “It looks like a year at best when the data is suspicious.”
CALPADS, the California Longitudinal Student Achievement Data System, has been a work skate since 2009. It contains much of the information about students that the state collects, including attendance, courses taken, test scores, and accountability data required by the federal and state governments. But it worked in an environment of increasing data load, and the state planned an upgrade that promises to significantly improve system performance and reduce the time required to accommodate downloaded data in the system.
It is unclear why the department chose mid-April, during Smarter Balanced testing, the peak period of using CALPADS for conversion. A spokesman for the department initially said the U.S. Department of Education was putting pressure on staff to do the job, but the State Department later clarified that was not the case.
In a letter dated April 22 to the District, County Department of Education and Statutory Schools, Jerry Winkler, director of the department’s Department of Educational Data Management, wrote that the department “recognizes the risk of such significant changes in the mid-season assessment system” but it was important to update data submission at the end of the year.
“CDE also apologizes for the greater than desired number of defects in the system. Some of these defects are due to the difficulty of transferring multi-year data to the new data structure, ”he wrote.
Areas began filing complaints after CALPADS was re-commissioned on April 18, two weeks after it was removed for modernization – a week longer than expected. Continuing to receive reports from counties, Vernon Billy, director general of the California School Board Association, and Edgar Zazueta, executive director of the California School Administrators Association, wrote on May 9 to State Superintendent of Public Learning Tony Thurmand, who oversees the department. expressing his “deep concern”.
“Our members have reported significant problems with CALPADS in recent weeks, to the extent that some consider the system unusable,” they wrote.
Among the questions they named:
Districts could not keep up with changes and updates in the individual education programs of special education students, which determine the conditions for taking the Smarter Balanced tests. This can affect the ability of special education students to get the right conditions when taking the tests.
Students transferred to schools or districts received multiple student identification numbers, which delayed testing or, in some cases, required students to repeat smarter balanced tests.
Counties reported numerous errors when uploading data to the revised system, which requires lengthy manual fixes.
“These issues have reached critical mass far beyond the capabilities of IT departments and are affecting operational functions at the district and school levels,” Billy and Zazueta wrote. According to them, small areas, which do not have staff and specialists to solve problems, have suffered the most.
Two days after the letter was sent, senior department officials met with organizations to discuss issues, and held another meeting this week to explain in detail how they address issues.
Roberts and David Feliciano, head of schools in La Mesa Spring Valley, said school districts are concerned that problems with student ID numbers and special education students could jeopardize their ability to meet the required 95% level of participation in tests. Smarter Balanced, citing federal fines. They said only a few or a few dozen students who miss the tests or drop them could push the district below the threshold.
But rejections from the U.S. Department of Education are unlikely, the department told administrators at a meeting this week.
“We are continuing our dialogue with the CDE, and we hope that the districts will be able to avoid fines beyond their control,” said Troy Flint, chief information officer for the school council association.
Flint and Zazueta said this week that they appreciate that the department has responded quickly to their letter and is addressing the issue urgently. But complaints from the districts are still heard daily.
“We understand that updating technology can take time and create problems, but problems remain,” Flint said.
Roberts and Feliciano are pessimists.
“The department hears this from us, but they’re not close enough to the students to understand what the impact really is,” Roberts said. “We are told that everything is being fixed, but not really fixed.”
Feliciano, who was a technology administrator before becoming a superintendent, found it “disappointing” that the department had not returned to the existing system after discovering significant deployment problems.
The department’s approach was “cavalier, brushing aside problems and issues,” he said.