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Forget Harcourt -- What About Chancery?

No sooner had the curiosity surrounding the reorganization plan flared and died than readers' and sources' attention reverted right back to where it was before:  IMPACT, Chancery, Bob Runcie, and all of that. 

Below, thanks to a reader, are a couple of links to stories about how software upgrades involving Chancery have gone in other school districts -- Orlando and Baltimore.  Maybe this is what we're headed for.   Their experiences "pale in comparison with CPS," I'm told. True?

Somone told me yesterday that the IMPACT contract is the biggest single check that CPS has cut in several years -- bigger than the High School Transformation, for example.  If ISBE has to deal with the fiasco surrounding Harcourt, is Chancery shaping up to be the fiasco surrounding CPS? 

Student data system sparks criticism Baltimore Sun
The Student Management System, provided by Burnaby, British
Columbia-based Chancery Software Ltd., was suppose to be a faster, more
efficient way for schools to record grades and other pertinent
achievement data. But because of program glitches, high school report
cards have been delayed and employees have spent additional hours
working to rectify the problems, resulting in overtime.

Software doesn't make grade

Orange schools suspend part of a controversial computer system.
Mary Shanklin | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted March 28, 2006

The Orange County school system has scuttled the glitch-prone
centerpiece of a $3.8 million program that was supposed to let parents
use home computers to track their children's daily performance in
school.

Superintendent Ron Blocker is expected at a School Board meeting
tonight to explain his decision suspending mandatory use of Chancery
Software's GradeBook program, which has been plagued with problems
since middle schools started using it in the fall. The Orlando
Sentinel brought the system's numerous problems to light in November.

"Our district made an investment in technology to help our teachers
deal with the ever-increasing demands of paperwork, and instead it's
just made teachers' lives worse," said School Board Chairman Karen
Ardaman.

Some schools may choose to stick with the program. But for most
parents, Blocker's move means they will no longer be able to call up
their children's grades on quizzes, projects, homework and other
assignments to track daily progress.

GradeBook has been so problematic that parents have likely found other
ways to monitor their children's progress, said Nick Gledich, the
district's chief operating officer.

The grade-monitoring program was touted as the central feature of a
software program that Orange bought for $3.8 million and rolled out in
27 middle schools last August. With the click of a computer mouse at
home, a parent was supposed to be able to log on to Chancery's "K12
Planet" Web site to monitor a child's performance.

A 'meltdown'

The GradeBook feature was part of Chancery's broader Student
Management Solutions package, which promised to help school
administrators track class assignments, attendance, health issues and
testing information. The district pushed ahead with the system despite
poor reviews from some schools that had tested the program.

By September, about a month into the school year, hundreds of
teachers, guidance counselors, parents and students had complained
about what many called a "meltdown" of the system.

After school started in August, teachers often lost grades. Guidance
counselors had to write schedules by hand. Students were assigned to
the wrong classes for weeks.

'A leap of faith'

Ardaman said Monday that the district erred by not ensuring that the
program was up and running in a similarly large district. With about
178,0000 students, Orange County is the nation's 12th-largest
district.

"Apparently, in retrospect, there was a leap of faith with the
district that what was working for smaller districts could work for a
district the size of Orange County," Ardaman said. "I think from this
point forward, we're going to be asking for real proof of performance
from districts comparable in size to Orange."

Blocker said Monday that other large districts in the nation have now
started using the program and have had problems similar to those in
Orange.

"What we're going through, other large districts are experiencing,"
Blocker said. "The problem is that the product is immature. There are
still some kinks that the vendor needs to work through."

A search for solutions

Earlier this month, Gledich recommended to Blocker that the district
suspend its use of the GradeBook program. His memo did not address
what the district should do about other problems with the Student
Management Solutions software.

Meanwhile, the district will provide schools with alternate ways of
tracking students' grades until the district can re-evaluate its
technology needs, Gledich added.

District officials hope that by June 30 they can pinpoint the
district's needs for student-information systems and that by July 2007
they will be able to solve the problem, Gledich said. He said Chancery
would be given an opportunity to make GradeBook work properly, or the
district may opt to go with a different company.

Mary Shanklin can be reached at mshanklin@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5538.

Filed under: Vendor-Ama

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