Los Angeles Schools Get an Extreme Data Makeover
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Los Angeles Unified School District has been limping along with its antiquated, decentralized student information system since the mid-1980s. But now, due to the imminent retirement of the employee maintaining the system for the past two decades, the district is replacing the primordial structure with a state-of-the-art web-based application, says the district’s CIO, Shahryar Khazei.
The new system will allow teachers and administrators to retrieve and manipulate data to search for broad trends or problems, or zero in on individual student records. Data formerly locked in different applications will be fed into a single efficient workflow system. A special ed student’s enrollment, for example, will automatically trigger alerts to the appropriate staff and departments. Users will also be able to create customized notification systems to keep multiple parties on top of a particular student problem.
Making the Change
Deciding to implement a new system was the easy part, but any alteration in IT infrastructure for a district with 727,000 students and 37,000 teachers in 858 schools spread over 740 square miles inflicts pain. So Khazei said he wanted to do it once and do it right. He pushed for a technologically advanced single enterprise system containing data on all schools and all students.
But no web-based, cross-platform system existed with the performance Khazei wanted on the scale that was required until 2002, when LAUSD partnered with Maximus to mutually develop an application. Maximus, a government services company providing all levels of program management, information technology, and consulting services, agreed to rewrite the software in Java and then market the application nationally. That way, LAUSD wouldn’t have to maintain a custom product itself, Khazei says.
Although SchoolMAX Enterprise is currently available to the public as a result of their teamwork, LAUSD’s own implementation won’t be completed until December 2007. That’s because of the district’s size: LAUSD is still working on improvements to the infrastructure and training teachers to use the technology, Khazei says. But the effort has already paid off in better data and better tools for teachers to monitor student progress. Debbie Acosta, principal of Mt. Gleason Middle School, says the SchoolMAX software gives a much more accurate picture of attendance, provides teachers with instant access to student data, and is encouraging some tech-shy teachers to take more initiative.
Pamela Derringer is a contributing writer for Scholastic Adminstr@tor magazine.