Friday, September 06, 2013

Seattle Schools Technology Updates

SPS Communications explained this about the technology issues on the first day of school:

We needed to make the switch from our old computer system to Power Schools as the old system was failing. It began failing more quickly than we anticipated, so what was supposed to be an 18-month transition was compressed into six months. Our Department of Technology staff has been working around the clock all summer to get this done.

We did transition to Power Schools on Aug. 26, two weeks later than initially planned due to some technical issues with the transfer. What this meant was, when staff came back to their schools in August, they had very little time for training. We are still trying to pinpoint the reasons for the problems people are having, but some appears to be a result of people not being familiar with the system. There are also more technical issues involved as well – for example, our Dept. of Technology staff have run numerous tests showing that students names that aren’t showing up in an individual school’s system are showing up in the centralized system – and no one knows yet why that is.

Second, we have had longer lines than usual this week at the John Stanford Center for those families wanting to enroll their children. We can attribute some of this to increased enrollment – simply more bodies showing up right before school starts – but there are also more people because some parents are trying to resolve the problems they are experiencing at their child’s own school by coming to the district offices.



(The growth was noted at the Board meeting as a parent from K-5 STEM told the Board that they have a waitlist of 61 students, 36 of whom are kindergarteners.  As she mentioned, that's more than a whole class itself.   ( I also note that one of the members of the Schmitz family, Vicki, told the Board that their family did give the district the land to be used for an neighborhood elementary school.  She supports K-5 STEM staying at Boren.  I think the idea of moving K-5 STEM to Schmitz Park is slowly changing.  Will it stay at Boren?  That remains to be seen.)

Also to note, the head of Technology told me that schools requested that The Source not be available during the summer until the first day of school.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Source is still not available to some of us.

HP

mirmac1 said...

That must be why the school fusion page lists the old principal who left 4 months ago...?

Anonymous said...

This is the message I get from the Source:

Beginning July 11, the Source will be unavailable so we may prepare for the new school year. Please check back on the first day of school. Thanks!

HP

Broadmom said...

Why are Power Schools and Fusion two separate systems? And, why can't we move seamlessly between the two at least? I hate having two pages to check. Am I missing something?

HP, when I am on Fusion and click The Source link under "My Account" I get that same message, but I can log onto the source directly.

mirmac1 said...

I can also log into the new Source which is PowerSchools.

http://ps.seattleschools.org

If you did not set up your account last year, then it appears that you are to expect instructions from your school.

Christina said...

Does ps.seattleschools.org remain unavailable after the browser cache and history are cleared? I have no lingering "unavailable until first day of school" messages and can log onto Power Source.

Today's Seattle Schools web conundrum is attempting to find the Fusion Pages of my child's teachers. Only the cached ones are showing up: two of my browsers are throwing me "we can't find that page" [which was displaying fine before Friday morning!] errors.

TechyMom said...

I'm not seeing last year's 3rd grade MSP scores. Anyone else seeing MSP scores yet?

Anonymous said...

The most recent MSP scores on our account are spring 2012.

Where exactly do we go to find Fusion pages now???

HIMSmom

Christina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"Also to note, the head of Technology told me that schools requested that The Source not be available during the summer until the first day of school."

Best practices dictate that when deploying IT solutions you never deploy:

Right before a solution is needed, particularly in terms of high load times

Anywhere near a holiday weekend

That the IT team should have insisted on more lead time, irregardless of what "the schools" were saying -- as this should be IT's domain of expertise

That you do not shut down access to systems required for basic organizational operations - for even a day

That you have system redundancy for both the development environment as well as the existing system.

There are plenty of IT consultants in the area that could have worked with SPS to develop a better migration path than this hot mess. The lack of change management planning -- for everyone from parents/student end users through to school staff and into district management operations is just astounding. Eighteen months for a migration? Where did they come up with that idea?

Ann D.

Anonymous said...

It kind of sort of works using that link https://ps.seattleschools.org/ but the formating is all wonky and the grades from last year are missing. Still no EOC score.

HP

Patrick said...

What is it with the District and technology? They pled "The Vax ate our homework!" for 20 years, until just a couple of years ago. Now they're blaming their new system?
Who held a gun to their heads and forced them to buy this new system?

Lisa said...

I'm also wondering when last year's EOC scores will go up. Does anyone know? My fusion and New Source pages seem to work just fine, so I'm guessing the score is not available ... but it is possible that part is broken and I should be seeing something.

Christina said...

Mid-September 2012 was when Spring 2012 EOC/MSP/HSPE test results were released; I expect mid-September 2013 will be when Spring 2013 EOC/... test results are released. They would be under "Assessments" in ps.seattleschools.org

Anonymous said...

If you only knew what a debacle this new system is. I have worked for SPS for the last 8 years and I have never seen school staff more stressed. Maybe the bugs will get worked out but I can tell you from my experience it is not very good. Our counseling staff has been working every day since Aug. 26th when we first allowed some access to PS.

By the way I was able to get my daughter's MSP scores from Research and Evaluation by emailing them her name, student, number, DOB, and where she took the test. They had it to me immediately when I provided them with the information. At least some part of SPS is working well. I think with all the in school PS problems they were probably waiting to upload to the PS Source

Anonymous said...

AWAITING ACCOUNTABILITY

Anonymous said...

Still waiting for the real story about PowerSchool, the new computer system for SPS that replaces eSIS...the facts:
google Pearson Acquires The Administrative Assistants Ltd.(AAL owned eSIS).This was a news release on Nov 2012.

September 12, 2012 check-out SPS School Board meeting minutes for PowerSchool when the contract was signed. This is 14 months after eSIS was sold and no longer supported. That is just the contract to purchase PowerSchool. The contract was to start 10/18/2012. That is almost 2 years from when SPS knew that eSIS was sold and PowerSchool needed to be looked at and implemented. Did it really take higher-ups at SPS 2 years to figure this out?

Sept 6, 2013 article in the times...School's in but software deployment a headache:

What person in a high level of responsibility thought it could wait til fall 2014 to replace. They knew it was an unsupported system since 2010??

another part of the article said the conversion was started 6 months ago and usually takes one and a half years.

This debacle has someone behind it who decided to start this way late and look at what it says about our commitment to excellent customer service to families as they wait 6 hours in line, and phones in Enrollment and Transportation that can't be answered because we are so short staffed even in the best of times?

This is not at the feet of the Technology Dept. It is at the feet of someone not DOTS who went following some shiny new pennies in 2010, 2011, and 2012 instead of dealing with the most important issue at hand for those years which was getting a new computer system in place.

Mr Banda, you weren't with us 3 years ago in 2010. But nonetheless, I want to see someone accountable for decisions not made.

Since it is our mission statement to provide excellent customer service and accountability, can we please have that person made accountable(please not the front line people again) but the real person who let politics or whatever get in front of making a decision that any good manager would have done 3 years ago.

Or is it only those in management when $180,000 was stolen a few years that bring accountability to the forefront. Those employees who knew about it were too afraid to come forward at that time.

As a staff member, I am appalled once again how this happened!! The stress as been abusive.

Let's not call this a "glitch". Where is the person responsible and why are they still with us.

I had to laugh at the set-up of a "special email where parents can send questions, and the district promises to respond to them promptly". From what I understand, Enrollment and it's various emails: sevicecenter@seattleschools,org and enrollmentservices@seattleschools.org and enrollmentspecialists@seattleschools.org are way behind in getting to the emails on these already existing URLs.

Anybody tried to get through to 252-0761 recently. Anybody want to know how horribly staffed those lines are.

And then we have a debacle of beyond horrible management decisions about the new computer system.

Mr Banda, please come forward and name this or these people and replace them. Families and staff are owed this.



Anonymous said...

We hold teachers accountable to standards and assessments. We should also hold administrators accountable as well, and this was one hugely massive, years-in-the-making failure with a capital F.

Everyone Accountable

Anonymous said...

Correction to Awaiting Accountability:

It was Nov 2010 not 2012 that the old computer system eSIS was sold to Pearson and thus the 2 year wait until Sept 28, 2012 when the School Board signed the contract for PowerSchool.

dw said...

Charlie, I've mentioned this in the past, but is there a way to color the text below "Leave your comment"? I'm thinking if you make at least some portion of the instructions red, it might cause people to read it and slow the huge flow of unsigned comments. Far better than requiring a sign-in, which would unnecessarily curtail comments, the lifeblood of this forum.

An anonymous reader was clever enough to detail out a history of the transition from eSIS to Powerschool, but apparently can't be bothered to read the instructions to post. I'll repost your comment, because it's interesting, but I'm not going to pretty it up.

Still waiting for the real story about PowerSchool, the new computer system for SPS that replaces eSIS...the facts:
google Pearson Acquires The Administrative Assistants Ltd.(AAL owned eSIS).This was a news release on Nov 2012.

September 12, 2012 check-out SPS School Board meeting minutes for PowerSchool when the contract was signed. This is 14 months after eSIS was sold and no longer supported. That is just the contract to purchase PowerSchool. The contract was to start 10/18/2012. That is almost 2 years from when SPS knew that eSIS was sold and PowerSchool needed to be looked at and implemented. Did it really take higher-ups at SPS 2 years to figure this out?

Sept 6, 2013 article in the times...School's in but software deployment a headache:

What person in a high level of responsibility thought it could wait til fall 2014 to replace. They knew it was an unsupported system since 2010?? 

another part of the article said the conversion was started 6 months ago and usually takes one and a half years.

This debacle has someone behind it who decided to start this way late and look at what it says about our commitment to excellent customer service to families as they wait 6 hours in line, and phones in Enrollment and Transportation that can't be answered because we are so short staffed even in the best of times?

This is not at the feet of the Technology Dept. It is at the feet of someone not DOTS who went following some shiny new pennies in 2010, 2011, and 2012 instead of dealing with the most important issue at hand for those years which was getting a new computer system in place.

Mr Banda, you weren't with us 3 years ago in 2010. But nonetheless, I want to see someone accountable for decisions not made.

Since it is our mission statement to provide excellent customer service and accountability, can we please have that person made accountable(please not the front line people again) but the real person who let politics or whatever get in front of making a decision that any good manager would have done 3 years ago.

Or is it only those in management when $180,000 was stolen a few years that bring accountability to the forefront. Those employees who knew about it were too afraid to come forward at that time. 

As a staff member, I am appalled once again how this happened!! The stress as been abusive.

Let's not call this a "glitch". Where is the person responsible and why are they still with us.

I had to laugh at the set-up of a "special email where parents can send questions, and the district promises to respond to them promptly". From what I understand, Enrollment and it's various emails: sevicecenter@seattleschools,org and enrollmentservices@seattleschools.org and enrollmentspecialists@seattleschools.org are way behind in getting to the emails on these already existing URLs.

Anybody tried to get through to 252-0761 recently. Anybody want to know how horribly staffed those lines are.

And then we have a debacle of beyond horrible management decisions about the new computer system.

Mr Banda, please come forward and name this or these people and replace them. Families and staff are owed this.


Correction to Awaiting Accountability:

It was Nov 2010 not 2012 that the old computer system eSIS was sold to Pearson and thus the 2 year wait until Sept 28, 2012 when the School Board signed the contract for PowerSchool.

dw said...

Broadmom asked: Why are Power Schools and Fusion two separate systems? And, why can't we move seamlessly between the two at least? I hate having two pages to check. Am I missing something?

I believe (I've heard) that they are totally separate systems, which might explain why you can't move seamlessly between them.

dw said...

Sorry, I meant to say totally separate companies.

Can anyone verify this?

Someone said...

You are correct - two different companies - edline (Schoolfusion) and Pearson (PowerSchool). Then there is a 3rd one versatran that runs transportion planning programs.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Edline is no more, it has been purchased by Blackboard, Inc., a Washington DC corporation,which also sells solutions for government and military.

So when you, or your kids are using the Fusion pages, be very aware that this is NOT a service run by Seattle Schools, but a third party corporation; one with potential military ties. You might consider this carefully when (if) you allow your kids to post stuff on those pages, because kids can post odd and incriminating things, and everything they post is in the hands of a third party, forever.

PowerSchool software is owned by Pearson now, but it appears to be hosted here in Washington by a K-12 organization, which leads me to believe the data is likely to be managed by our district, rather than a third party. If anyone has more info on that it would be appreciated.

Mirmac, Fusion is yet another way for outside organizations to get our kids' personal data. Just something else to add to the list.

- outsider

mirmac1 said...

Greeeaat. Like we need more of those.

Anonymous said...

This thread is pretty funny. The same activists who scream bloody murder at spending in the District's HQ are now screaming because the complex IT systems are not working.

IT is costly in both systems and the personnel to support them. There are no shortcuts. Want to buy a cheap system? You ain't getting support. Buy a complex system? You need well-paid staff to customize it and maintain it.

SPS is the dregs when it comes to paying for IT. The consequences will continue to show both downtown and in the classroom. Want change? Support instead of tear down IT.


IT Professional

Christina said...

For anyone following this topic still hoping for EOC/HSPE/MSP Spring 2013 results: they've been posted to ps.seattleschools.org as of Sunday evening, 8 September 2013.

mirmac1 said...

Yep, according to MSP scores, my kid got dumber last year.