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IBM would get windfall if Brown suspends CalPADS project

If student and teacher data systems are indefinitely suspended under a proposal by Gov. Jerry Brown, IBM – the state contractor – would still receive approximately $7 million in federal dollars whether they finish the system or not, said officials at the California Department of Education. 

The contract is just one of several problems raised late last week by the CDE and the non-partisan Legislative Analyst with Brown’s plan to suspend development of the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System and its sister program for tracking longitudinal teacher data.

Another issue with eliminating CALPADS and the teacher data system is that it could result in lost Title 1 funding due to federal requirements placed around student tracking. Also, California would fall further behind other states in a nationwide mission to enhance student data collection for a variety of purposes.

“We can’t put a contractor on hold for the year. So this basically cuts CALPADS development in half and leaves us nowhere to go to meet our data responsibilities,” explained Keric Ashley, director of the data management division at the California Department of Education.

In a request for comment by Cabinet Report, IBM spokesman Clint Roswell said the company is “fully committed” to completing CALPADS in partnership with CDE.

The IBM response did not address the governor’s proposed system elimination or the potential impact on the state contract.

In his revised May budget, Brown proposed suspending federal payment on the student and teacher data systems, which have been under development for over a decade.

CALPADS is slated for completion by June 2012.

By withholding federal funds, Brown stated he wanted to assemble all education stakeholders and craft policies that would reduce standardized testing time and also eliminate data deemed unnecessary.

Sue Burr, incoming executive director of the California State Board of Education and key education policy advisor to Brown, said the governor is skeptical of the data system and wants to find out if districts support it.

“What would be helpful would be to hear from some local school districts about their assessment of the effectiveness of the system and the utility of the system for local decision making,” she said. “I think that’s the governor’s number one priority.”

Beyond that, the governor’s plan for CALPADS is unknown. Burr could not confirm the issue with the IBM contract.

Federal funding for the data system was originally cut by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as part of the 2010-11 budget. The former governor noted ongoing delays and quality failures with the system and suggested moving data oversight away from the Department of Education.

In response, CDE officials blamed IBM for the problems and even sent the software provider a letter in February threatening default unless major actions were taken to fix the system. 

Since that time, CDE officials report that IBM has made significant improvements.

In his January budget, Brown did not propose to return the federal funds but instead called for a work group of several state agencies to inspect the data system and examine IBM’s role in its production.

That group, which included members of the Legislature, Department of Finance, and CDE, met once in March. The group unanimously agreed to continue funding CALPADS while the system’s problems were identified and fixed.

There was also consensus that the Legislature would reevaluate CALPADS to decide what kinds of student and teacher data the state wished to collect.

The governor’s recent action reneges on that plan, noted Ashley.

“At this point there is a frustration that this May revise is not consistent with the governor’s interagency work group recommendation,” he said.

Burr from the state board argued that the workgroup decision was related to current year funding and therefore was not incongruent with the governor’s plan.

While the Legislature reviews the governor’s proposal, CDE officials advise school districts to continue submitting data to the department under the current schedule.

(Ed’s Note: This story appears courtesy of Cabinet Report, a subscription-based education news service published by School Innovations & Advocacy. To learn more visit:http://www.siacabinetreport.com/home.aspx Contact reporter Allen Young at: alleny@sia-us.com)


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