Balky NC computer system irks high school seniors

Posted February 27, 2014

— A new state computer system intended to be a resource for parents, students, teachers and school administrators is plagued with problems.

The PowerSchool program was rolled out last summer to replace a system known as NC Wise and is used to access grades, transcripts and student athletic eligibility among other uses.

As with the new systems used to process Medicaid claims and deliver food stamps, PowerSchool has experienced repeated glitches, such as teachers being unable to update grades and high school seniors being unable to access transcripts needed for college applications.

Enloe High School senior Lukas Lyon said Thursday that the system is essentially failing him and other college applicants because its unable to calculate midyear GPAs, update class ranks and send transcripts to schools.

"The colleges that we applied to need our midyear grades to determine if they want to accept us," Lyon said. "This has added a whole new level of stress to (the application process)."

Rosalyn Galloway, who oversees PowerSchool for the state Department of Public Instruction, said the agency tested the system before it went online in July.

"We tried to anticipate where we could," Galloway said. "Naturally, because we didn't have all the data converted, we couldn't test everything."

DPI and vendor Pearson are continually addressing issues, but new ones pop up each month as others are resolved, she said.

One problem is that there are 253 different versions of PowerSchool because each school district and each charter school has customized it for their individual policies, procedures and requirements.

The college transcript one, however, is very time-sensitive for seniors.

"We've been working around the clock to try and get that completed," Galloway said. "I would like to see it early next week, if we can get it that soon."

Lyon said such assurances are of little comfort.

"As reassuring as that sounds, it's really not that reassuring at all because the deadline has long passed," he said.

Galloway said North Carolina colleges have promised to be understanding about the transcript delays, but there are no guarantees for out-of-state schools.


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  • Kimberly Rabbeni Feb 28, 2014
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    What she said about not having enough data to test the system is bull. Proper testing would not ever use real student data, it would use data sets made to allow the testing of different conditions.

    Who did they contract to develop this? It certainly wasn't SAS, they would have delivered pristine software.

    In addition, NCWISE should not have been taken down until the new program was thoroughly tested. Both systems could have run in parallel. That way you run both, compare the results and if they are different you write a problem report with the specific data sanatized (no personal info) so that the problem can be reproduced, fixed and tested.

    How do these kids know the info being sent to colleges is accurate. Mistakes in this program could cost someone a space in a particular college.

  • David Collins Feb 28, 2014
    user avatar

    If you don't have enough data to thoroughly to test a system before go live, you better be prepared to put out a lot of fires.

  • James McFetridge Feb 28, 2014
    user avatar

    "One problem is that there are 253 different versions of PowerSchool"

    You mean that bought something that couldn't be configured by school or school district using external data files? Really? We need to get some people into government who understand I/T. We'll save enough money to cover their salaries several times over in the long run!

  • dang_skippy Feb 28, 2014

    Serously for $7.1 Millions, I could write this code myself and it would be entirely usable. How does DPI not get this stuff right??

  • RGMTRocks Feb 28, 2014

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    AMEN!!!! It's crazy what they're putting out and the lack of development and testing going into it. If something like this came out of my IT team, I'd fire everybody - but then, no worries here - because we do it right and release it only when it's right! And, I might add, we do that on time within tight deadlines. It really just is NOT that hard! It's a work ethic, give a darn issue - as in, they have none.

  • Chris Perry Feb 28, 2014
    user avatar

    From a parents view, how about getting the teachers to update the grades more than two days before the end of a grading period so that we know of problems. Kind of hard to help your child recover from a bad grade in two days! Was also interesting to hear a principal admit that they had not instructed the first year teacher on how to use the system

    How about getting involved with you child. If you have concerns, contact the teacher. Most school require progress reports sent out. Have you been seeing them?
    As far as training, this system was just kind of shoved in our faces. No one to my knowledge has had adequate training .

  • heard-it-all-before Feb 28, 2014

    "We tried to anticipate where we could," Galloway said. "Naturally, because we didn't have all the data converted, we couldn't test everything."

    petty excuse. i work in the networking field. it's common sense-- and it applies to all industries not just networking: it's scientifically impossible to run a valid test and get accurate results if "all the data isn't converted" first. and you NEVER go-live until you've run numerous, valid tests and get numerous, consistent, accurate and identical results. who on earth would flip the switch and go-live knowing ahead of time all the data isn't there? time for someone to fess up & resign. this isn't an "oops it was an accident". this was total negligence and laziness. says it right there in the article.

  • sunshine1040 Feb 28, 2014

    Was a time when companies actully tested software before putting it on the market then they trained the company or person it was sold to on how to use it. Oh for the good old days when teachers work days were use to write a students grades on a piece of paper called a report card .

  • Forthe Newssite Feb 28, 2014
    user avatar

    OMG!!! HOW did we EVER get into college before the age of computers????

  • RGMTRocks Feb 28, 2014

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    YES YES YES- that would be most helpful, now wouldn't it?
    Overall though, the whole system is junky and badly designed - like most things coming from the vendor Pearson. Being in close contact with many districts in another state who have used Powerschool for a while (NO, it's not new!) I was completely dismayed to learn that NC was adopting it for our school systems. It's a piece of junk! As far as the testing goes - perhaps NC should hire some ACTUAL QUALIFIED software testers before they plan to roll out any new systems that affect so many people. There's really NO excuse for the sloppy stuff our state is throwing out - from this one to the DHHS systems and on and on. I'm an IT professional with a software testing background and it's just really not that hard to deliver a quality product if you use the right people and processes.