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LAUSD student data system: Will it pass big test on first day of school?

The LAUSD inspector general's report on the trouble-prone student data system called MiSiS calls for an outside party to monitor the work of district software developers.
File photo: Los Angeles Unified students return to classes Tuesday, which will test the ability of the district's $133 million data system to schedule classes and keep track of pupils as it was intended to do.

Los Angeles Unified School District officials are banking on the $130 million MiSiS student data system acing its ultimate test: Tuesday's first day of classes for more than 600,000 students from Granada Hills to San Pedro.

The data system called MiSiS (My Integrated Student Information System) has had a troubled past and its problems have contributed to the resignations of top district officials in the past year. Nonetheless, the district relies on it to schedule classes, track attendance, produce student transcripts and determine whether seniors have graduated.

“MiSiS is the heart of this District,” LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines said in a statement earlier this month. “After months of tireless repairs, our heart has some new stents, replaced valves, a pacemaker, and reduced cholesterol, and it is pumping much stronger.”

Last fall, MiSiS appeared to be in cardiac arrest.

LAUSD flipped the switch on the massive data system to replace antiquated record-keeping and problems immediately emerged. On the first day of class, many students had the wrong classes or no classes, while other students weren’t showing up in the system at all.

Students at Jefferson High School walked out to protest scheduling problems that left some with Advanced Placement classes set at the same time while others whiled away the hours in cafeterias and libraries for lack of academic courses.

The problems at Jefferson were so severe, a judge stepped in and ordered officials to address the class scheduling issues immediately.

A short time later, Superintendent John Deasy stepped down, in part because of the continuing problems with the MiSiS system. Then the district's chief of information, Ron Chandler, who oversaw the work on MiSiS, resigned a few days later.

The school district said it has fixed many problems with the data system, but as late as last month, the teachers union said MiSiS had botched graduation transcripts for up to 7,500 students who may or may not have already finished their senior year.

And, a district newsletter on MiSiS this month warns school staff to watch out when enrolling new students, and when inputting names with apostrophes — MiSiS can’t handle them. 

Cortines said a plan is in place to “ensure accurate record-keeping” from here on out. Despite that message, the school district told teachers in its newsletter to use old-fashioned paper rosters when taking attendance, just in case they cannot use MiSiS.

Last month, LAUSD held up the first day of classes at Bell High School — the last school in the district on a year-round calendar – as an example of the MiSiS fixes. The school district said 30 students out of a total enrollment of 2,000 didn’t have their class list at the beginning of the school day, but that was the most serious student data problem that arose.

“I am also extremely proud of the MiSiS team and all of their hard work and attentiveness to ensure systems and technology were ready to provide everything the school and the students needed to begin the new school year,” said Diane Pappas, LAUSD CEO of strategic planning and innovation.