Monday, September 16, 2013

PowerSchool roll out

The District migrated to a new enterprise software, PowerSchool. When this was pitched to the Board, they were pretty much told that they had no choice. The company that made the software they were using was bought by Pearson and Pearson stopped support of that program. They offered to help districts making the migration to Pearson's software, PowerSchool, but districts would be on their own if they wanted to move to any other software. PowerSchool would also offer a lot of attractive capabilities that were available as modules, including one that would replace The Source.

This is a VERY BIG DEAL. This software collects, tracks, and reports just about all of the information for all students throughout the system. It runs everything - schedules, grades, test scores, medical information, and more.

Unfortunately, the roll out of PowerSchool was less than ideal. Users didn't get enough training - some got none. The District didn't get much support from Pearson and the IT department didn't have the staffing they needed for the rollout. Some staff weren't even granted access to the system or the right access. That's one of the reasons that schedules were so messed up at the start of the year. That's why there was a technology blackout until days before school started and waitlists didn't move.

So where are we now? Has the training and access caught up with the need? Are those first week issues ironed out? What's going on with PowerSchool? Do people like it? Is it working well?

57 comments:

Jet City mom said...

Has anyone ever tracked the changes & costs involved of changing software everytime we turn around?
Dont we have enough local people who could design & implement a program that we could maybe use for a few years before it is thrown out?

ITguy said...

There are huge problems in district administration for technology. When I talked to a few people when I was considering helping on the Classroom and Business Technology Advisory Committee (CABTAC), what I found was people mostly concerned with buying new things (like projectors, tablets, and WiFi) and spending their entire budget so it doesn't get cut next year. I saw little desire to improve existing systems, measure whether technology was helping teachers and kids, or run small, cheap pilot projects to find new ways to help teachers and kids.

In my opinion, what is needed here is much better leadership, particularly a carefully audited budget and a culture of only doing things that can be shown to help teachers and kids. Unfortunately, I see few signs we are going to get that.

Anonymous said...

The new source never loads on my browser very well. It doesn't matter if I use Explorer or Chrome. It always looks like crap. I like the old source better. It seemed to have more information and was better organized. It sounds like Pearson bought a better product and squashed it in favor of its own.

HP

Anonymous said...

I think it is sad that with all the IT expertise in this town the district cannot choose their own software.

My textbook for a class that I teach was bought by Pearson from another publisher. It is a living nightmare to get any support from Pearson. The district seems to allow themselves to writhe under the jack boot of these publishers without making their own decisions and doing what is best for students in the district.

-Sad

Anonymous said...

How much notice did the District get about the Pearson acquisition? In my mind, that would have been the time to issue an RFP to see what other providers are out there. Or at the very least, to lock Pearson into some specifics about support with the migration. If the District did this and Pearson didn't perform, seems like a legal/contractual issue (i.e. we should at least get paid). From the sound of this, we got very little notice, and maybe didn't put any teeth into the promises about support, etc.

- Grrrr

Po3 said...

I would love to weigh in on this but the source no longer will let me in. says my password is invalid - have not changed my password since logging in last week.

After too many failed attempts I was told to contact my school.

I wonder which school should I contact - I have students in two?

Maureen said...

I have access to my kid's info, but there isn't much there (only three of six teachers have entered anything). Does anyone know why we can't see their history? I know from going through the college app process with my older kid, that it would be really nice to be able to see their entire HS history (without have to order a transcript). Why are we limited to seeing the current semester (and assessments)? And why is there no way of seeing their cumulative GPA? It seems like the info should all be there. (Or am I being dense?!)

Anonymous said...

In our experience so far the Source technical assistance response team and response time have been great. Hats off to them. The problem is that the new software or whatever it is is so nitpicky: this browser with sytem not that browser with that system ...

reader

Libby said...

Our kids are new to the district and we haven't received our Source login information yet. Seems to be a delay with at least some schools sending this information to families.

Eric B said...

My experience with major software upgrades makes me jaded at best. IMHO, any time you change database platforms, there are going to be huge issues. Pearson seems to have been in the driver's seat since they have both the old and the new, but I agree that having a contract about what support Pearson would supply would have been a good thing. Pearson's competitors also should have had an opportunity to bid on the replacement. Maybe that would have happened if the old software had survived another year like it was initially expected to.

The fact that it is up and running and apparently working says to me that it was fairly successful. Maybe I'm just jaded after the company got this message from a software vendor's tech support: "The guy who really knows that module left, so we don't have anyone who understands what it does now. We'll check in with the Navy, since they developed it." I wish I were making that up.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Our school sent us the Source login information with the start-of-school packet. We had to re-active our account. So far, we have been able to see all the needed information by following the instructions provided by the school. We were told that teachers are not required to post grade information, but I am guessing that questions from the public will encourage better sharing. Either that or some teachers doesn't want parents or students to ask questions. I found demographics using the left side menu.

I think the district is doing good job with the limits of reduce funding and budget slashes. So typical, the community allows public school funds to be cut and then complains about the school not getting the job done.

McClure Parent

SE Mom said...

My daughter has PowerSchool at her private high school. It works great. On her page there is a link for grade history so that you can go back to previous semesters. It provides the current semester GPA but does not give the cumulative GPA.

Anonymous said...

I haven't had any problems logging into the Source. Does this new integration mean we won't have to toggle between the Source and the fusion pages? I hope so.

Jane

Maureen said...

Thanks SEMom, but it looks like the SPS version doesn't support that feature: Source Tour. Maybe we can't afford it!

Kate Martin said...

I remember when I ran for school board in 2011 that many teachers repeatedly told me that they did not receive any training on using The Source when it rolled out. Additionally, there was not a contract requirement to actually use The Source. Teachers had the option to contact families with information in other ways though my experience was that those who did not use it did not use some other way to contact families. I believe there are a fair number of technology-averse teachers, so training to use the software is essential. What might be no problem for techy types, could prove a real challenge for others.

mirmac1 said...

Like MAP, like PBIS, like IEPOnline, like everything else, the district will use the discredited "Train the Trainer" model, which I take to mean train one person in a building who will then have no time or inclination or sufficient background to train everyone else.

Anonymous said...

How much notice did the District get about the Pearson acquisition?

At least two full school years. Many school districts moved off esis and onto other platforms last year. Mary that other school districts game for changing over last year was better to make the transition before esis support completely went away that be stuck with nothing. Not that many people choose to continue with our schools. There is a common believe that it does not have the capability to serve a larger school District and instead of product best use by small school districts or networks of private schools.

-IMO

Patrick said...

Kate Martin, the impression I got from teachers was similar, with the addition that the old Source was so poor they kept their real grades on Excel spreadsheets and entering them onto the Source was completely extra work. It wasn't just technology-adverse teachers who didn't use it, it was teachers who thought it was a waste of their time to keep grades in two places. And it's hard to argue that's a better use of their time than lesson planning or helping students or much of anything else teachers could be doing.

I hope the new Source is good enough that teachers won't feel the need to keep the real grades in Excel.

Eric M said...

The tools that teachers have now for attendance and grading are worse than what we had before. They appear to have never been auditioned before an actual working classroom teacher, because many even very simple, obvious things are missing and/or inadequately implemented.

Anonymous said...

one of those sources terrified of attracting attention of the jscee Tolley head hunter crowd says the district went with the little birdy option on power-junk: cheep cheep cheep.

it certainly appears that the handling of this roll out could be another chapter of Advanced SPS Systems Managment 801. Make sure that individuals who are unqualified and unaccountable make snap decisions, unless you have a committee of the unqualified and unaccountable to duck decisions. Make sure key decisions points are never really figured out, except for a few which are randomly sprinkled among the unqualified and unaccountable individuals and committees so that the boondogle can really grow.

OH yeah, have we hired CONsultant people affiliated with LEV-SFC-A4E-MSFT... with no track record of implementing anything on time or on budget to tell the unaccountable how to stay behind the curtain?

TrainWreckAgain

Anonymous said...

I was caught off-guard by the switch, and didn't know about the change until I read about it here in late August. A few comments here mentioned that there were instructions to set up new credentials for the new system last spring, so I searched back through emails from that time, and don't see any notice from the district or from either of my kids' schools. As a result, I've been shut out since mid June.

At this point, my middle school son has access to his student account because his school gave information directly to him. I can view his info there, but I do not have a way to access the parent account or information for my other son. The new credentials have not been communicated from the district, or from either school in the back-to-school welcome packs.

My guess is that the district was supposed to handle this last spring and this fall, but hasn't done so. Now there's a misunderstanding at the individual school level as to what to communicate and how to communicate it to families.

-Frustrated

Anonymous said...

This is my favorite message when I could have time to check on my student's info:
"Source and PowerSchool are down for Nightly Maintenance. Please check back after 6am."
Is this going to be every night?
Frustrated 2

Anonymous said...

Frustrated, didn't you see the message on the Source? I never received anything from the school and our family is new to the public schools but the Source itself made me switch to the new software for the 2nd semester grades last year. Did they only do that for high schools?

Now, I can't see last years grades at all. Just this years.

Anonymous said...

That was me above, HP.

Anonymous said...

As a parent, I found the previous SOURCE to be an essential tool. At HIMS, there were several occasions where teachers accidentally misplaced an article of work. My student and I were able to track down these problems and rectify them immediately when the failing grade for the assignment appeared on the SOURCE. It was also extremely useful to track down problems and apply additional studying to bring up grades. Certainly my student got tired of having me point to the SOURCE and say "What about THIS??!" But it was a hugely helpful tool to stay on top of things.

For these reasons, I am disappointed at the clunky nature of Powersource. Furthermore, if the teachers find it difficult to use there will be less compliance with posting homework scores. I cannot see, based on the layout of the gradesheet, how individual homework assignments will be listed. Am I missing something? Only quarter grades are indicated which is useless to parents. Can anyone tell me how I can access grades for individual assignments? The fusion pages show assignments but not grades.

-Down with Powersource

dw said...

Jane asked: Does this new integration mean we won't have to toggle between the Source and the fusion pages? I hope so.

I hope NOT! According to this pageThe Source/Powerschool is run by SPS, but Fusion is a third party company that also gathers data for the military.

How the @%!# did our kids data get punched into THAT system?! I guess it's not just CCER that wants our kids' data, Fusion even includes kids' "blog posts". Are you all okay with this? I'm inclined to tell my kid not to post anything on that site. How else do we protest something like this? Can anyone verify that Fusion is not run and managed by SPS?

Anonymous said...

I believe if you click on the individual grade for a class it will bring up all the assignments and grades that make up that overall grade. You should be able to see if anything is missing from there.

HP

Anonymous said...

Phew - thanks HP for that clarification.

-Down with Powersource

TechyMom said...

Nightly maintenance? Seriously? What, is it 1975? There's no excuse for something like this in a modern enterprise application.

I'm hoping that they're just doing night work to finish the roll-out, since they had so many problems, and that this won't continue for long. If this is really the service level for a customer-facing system, I'm appalled.

Anonymous said...

• One of the hardest hit departments in the last several years has been IT. The last # I heard of in-the-school network support personnel was about 20 – with about 50,000 students and 100 schools… do the math. No doubt they’re swamped and yet mostly talented from my experience. Many schools are now paying for extra IT support out of their school budgets.
• I suspect the same lack of funding may have been part of why the Power School transition has been so rough (and part of the prior Source issues and even now the minimal Fusion support). I may be wrong but I never heard of extra staff being hired on to help – if you’re going to have a major systems overhaul affecting 1000s of employees and 100,000+ users (students & parents) it seems reasonable to me to bring on 4-6 extra IT staff for the 1-2 year transition (infrastructure, training, support, etc.). I doubt this had upper level support.
• I can’t guarantee there weren’t incompetence screw-ups along the way, but I fear the lack of IT support $$ by the district towards IT is more of a root cause. Upper level staff would much rather hire consultants/coaches to tell teachers how to teach than actually put $$ into the systems that would keep the networks running, enhance teaching grading/paperwork tracking efficiency, and provide more powerful classroom computers to actually allow technology to be an educational tool rather than a source of frustration.
• I went through several major software transitions pre-teaching. Although I like many aspects of the Source and Fusion software packages I agree the transition has been unnecessarily difficult, especially the lost August transition/preparation time. Although the national push is for $$ to only be spent in the classroom, I for one would strongly state extra $$ spent on IT support very easily translates into direct support for my classroom.
• I’m sorry Patrick, but having used the Source for a few years there simply was no reason for teachers to keep “their real grades on Excel spreadsheets”, especially as that returns grading to a black-box model hidden from students and parents. That really bothers me and actually teachers who do not keep their Source grades reasonably up to date hinder student feedback and make the rest of us look bad/lazy. Although the Source/PowerSchool/Fusion tools are just good and not great, there’s no reason not to utilize these as our best parent communication tools.
• Students “blog posts” in Fusion use anonymous names like orange parakeet (color/animal) which are randomly determined unless a student overrides their personal name prior to their 1st post. All posts must be approved by teachers for appropriateness (inappropriate words, personally identifying information) prior to their showing up. IF any personally identifying information shows up inform the teacher (and concurrently the principal if you’re concerned about a timely correction).

SPS Teacher

Patrick said...

SPS Teacher, I don't doubt that was your experience with the old Source, but I did hear keeping their real grades in Excel from several different teachers, and they have no reason to lie that I can think of. If the Source seemed easier than keeping their real grades in Excel and then copying them over periodically I'm sure they'd have used it.

Syd said...

When you say 20 IT people, what do you mean? Developers? DBAs? With 2 developers and one DBA, they could have built a custom solution in less time than they spent "transitioning."

I have seen custom solutions built in two months, including gathering requirements and like-to-haves, and moving all users over in one night. With perhaps a few hours of middle of the night down time.

This is important.We should spend the money to make sure the IT department has developers and a DBA.

Or what about this, work with the UW comp sci department. Nice meaty project with a community service aspect.

Syd said...

I forgot to say that the example I am referencing worked with over 2 million users.

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