Student data systems going south

Student data systems - created to manage a wealth of data about students from grades to attendance logs - across the nation have gone "haywire," the New York Times reports.

Student data systems - created to manage a wealth of data about students from grades to attendance logs - across the nation have gone "haywire," the New York Times reports.

For instance, in North Carolina, the NC WISE system - nicknamed NC STUPID by teachers - is years behind schedule and estimates are now $250 million. California's system will cost at least $120 million, more than double the original plans. And in Idaho, a private foundation flushed $21 million down the drain, pulling out when estimates hit $180 million.

"It metastasized way beyond the original concept," said Jason Hancock, an education analyst for the Idaho Legislature. "Costs ballooned, and the funders just pulled the plug."

The systems have been driven by No Child Left Behind requirements for accountability. Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes says the systems are crucial for federal accountability plans to work. "But many states can never quite get it together," he said. "These systems are expensive, arcane, and some principals and teachers groups don't want them to work." He urged the federal government to offer increased technical help to states building the systems.

North Carolina officials have been working for years to build NC WISE, short for Windows of Information on Student Education, to manage student attendance, grades and test reports; schedule classes; and give teachers and principals quick access to a student's entire record, from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Glitches had already appeared in the system when I.B.M. bought out an original contractor in 2002. By last fall, NC WISE had been extended to one-third of the state's 2,200 schools at a cost of $110 million and had built a reputation for sluggishness and freezing. In February, North Carolina canceled I.B.M.'s contract, and state officials said they hoped to finish the system by 2008, at an additional cost of $140 million.

...Tito Craige, chairman of the social studies department at East Chapel Hill High School, said the system had infuriated teachers by requiring multiple passwords in a session, by losing enrollment and grading data, by reporting late students as absent, and by crashing when thousands of teachers across the state signed on simultaneously.

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