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LAUSD MiSiS problems persist, some graduating seniors caught in transcript hell

Jefferson High School students walk out from classes to protest a broken scheduling system, they said. Many students involved with AP classes and leadership courses couldn't take both because the classes were scheduled at the same times.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
File photo: In August 2014, Jefferson High School students walk out from classes to protest a broken student data system that failed to properly schedule them in classes. Continuing problems with the data system is impacting the Class of 2015.

Problems with Los Angeles Unified’s student data tracking system known as MiSiS continue to haunt the district and the latest issue is plaguing graduating seniors. 

The $133 million MiSiS system is still coughing out transcripts that inaccurately report whether students have met their graduation requirements, according to officials familiar with the district's recent problems.

UTLA Secondary Vice President Colleen Schwab said up to 7,500 students may be affected. 

"I understand that they have been working diligently day in and day out to try and fix the problem, but the result is that kids culminated [graduated] that may or may not really have qualified," she said. 

Schwab said she spoke with counselors who report that they are being unfairly blamed for signing off on graduating students who hadn’t met the requirements needed to graduate.

Jefferson High School and Hamilton High School are among the schools whose students are affected by transcript problems. Other schools may also be impacted. 

LAUSD acknowledged the latest problems with MiSiS, but declined to comment on the number of students affected or the scope of the issues. 

In a written statement issued to KPCC on Tuesday, Superintendent Ramon Cortines said the district was taking steps to solve the problems:

A spokeswoman for the Cal State University system said officials there know of no recent problems related to transcripts from incoming LAUSD students or applicants. In October, Cortines sent a letter to various university leaders apologizing for data problems related to GPA, transcript errors and class rank. Cal State LA and Cal State University Northridge were among those that received the letter. 

The district initially spent $29 million for the student data tracking system, which was designed to replace an earlier system that proved unsatisfactory. Since then it has spent an additional $100 million on the system, including expenditures meant to fix issues from a year ago.

Major problems with MiSiS emerged as soon as it rolled out last summer. Students' class schedules were fraught with issues; the system failed to record grades or attendance. About 600 students at Jefferson High ended up spending their days in the auditorium because the school lacked academic classes for them.

In August, frustrated Jefferson High students walked out of the school in protest. Two months later, Alameda Superior Court Judge George Hernandez ruled the loss in class time caused by the scheduling problems was so egregious that the rights of the Jefferson students were being violated.

He ordered school officials to immediately fix the problems. The district brought in more teachers, expanded the school day to provide more class time, and hired retired educators to help address inaccuracies in student transcripts.

The problems with MiSiS, along with the district's problem-plagued iPad program, contributed to the resignation of former Superintendent John Deasy in October. A month later, a consultant group hired to review the MiSiS problems said in a report that top district administrators ignored warnings the data system was not ready for launch.

In February of this year, Jefferson High school officials reported repairs to MiSiS were taking hold and class scheduling problems were being resolved. 

But the district’s logs for known issues with MiSiS show 355 problems as of Wednesday, including pending problems with student transcripts.

In December, Cortines defended the MiSiS system. “With these improvements, I am confident that MiSiS will prove to be a landmark achievement for LAUSD," he told board members by email. Earlier that same month, the superintendent estimated it would take another year to resolve problems with the data system.