Out of Control Policy Blog

California's Education Database Project Failing

California's statewide data system tracking student information was to be fully functioning by now. But CalPADS – the state's $34 million student database project – is a year behind schedule.

According to the Sacramento Bee report there are two reasons for this.

1. An evaluation of the project fount that the contractor, IBM, has too much independence in it work on the project, lacking oversight, and has been under staffing the project.

2. "According to federal documents, the state was hurt by poor union support, too few participating school districts, an unclear plan to tie teacher and principal evaluations to performance, and the lack of progress in raising student achievement."

Shame on IBM if they are bagging out.  Private contractors who scrimp, weasel, or fail to perform, not only screw the taxpayers but poison the well of privatization nationwide.  If we want the market to do more, then the market has to work well and be accountable.

Yet accountability is the fundamental responsibility of the government in a contract like this.  In problem #1 above, the state is clearly being incompetent, once again, in its contract management. Lack of oversight is not IBM's fault, it is the state education department not doing its job.

And problem #2!!! Wow!  The teachers unions are fighting this tooth and nail, as they oppose all forms of accountability for performance, and the department of education can't figure out a simple architecture tying data and performance evaluation.

This quote says a lot:

"It's so labor intensive that it's ridiculous," said Bobbie Plough, Natomas Unified superintendent. She said district staff spent thousands of hours entering data into the system.

Oh, the humanity! We have to actually work!  Wake up people, data entry, data management and data analysis are part of the working world now.  Garbage men and gas station attendants have to do it, so I think that asking teachers and school administrators to do it is not too much to ask.

Adrian Moore is Vice President, Policy


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