Oversight of student records program 'grossly inadequate,' audit finds

Oversight of student records program 'grossly inadequate,' audit finds
John Deasy, former LAUSD superintendent, during a meeting of the school board on Aug. 26. Deasy was not interviewed for a new audit by the inspector general of the district's student software program. (Gary Friedman)

An investigation into the rollout of a new online student records system by the Los Angeles Unified School District found that management of the project was "grossly inadequate."

The system, known as My Integrated Student Information System, or MISIS, was intended to put the district on track to get out from under a consent decree stemming from a federal lawsuit in the 1990s. The system was supposed to be a one-stop shop for information on every aspect of a student's career, including attendance, grades and discipline.


But the software was rolled out "before the data integrity issues were resolved, end-to-end testing done ... and interfaces with other systems determined to be functional," according to a report by the district's office of the inspector general, released Wednesday.

In part as a result of glitches in the system, some students spent weeks waiting to be assigned to classes, and the district scrambled to fix errors in transcripts in time for college application deadlines.

The software debacle, along with an ill-fated attempt to issue every student, teacher and campus administrator a computer, contributed to the resignation of Supt. John Deasy and the district's head of technology, Ron Chandler.

The inspector general's report appeared to point much of the blame for failures in the system at Bria Jones, a consultant hired by the district as project director for the software initiative. The new district Supt. Ramon C. Cortines ended Jones' $280,000-a-year contract last month.

The auditors wrote that the project director failed to get enough feedback from the school staff who would use the system, and that certain functions were missing from the system because Jones was focused on the pieces that related directly to the consent decree.

The report also said the project team did not put enough focus on making sure that the system would be compatible with older systems and that the data would be clean and usable.

"It was discovered at 'go live' that data integrity issues were severe. Incomplete and erroneous data were in the system and  bad data caused some MISIS functions not to work effectively," the auditors wrote.

The report noted that problems with the system surfaced in early testing, but Jones attributed the "negative chatter" about the system to "a fear of change" and recommended more staff training.

After more problems surfaced as portions of the system were rolled out in summer school and at Bell High School, Chief Strategy Officer Matt Hill called a meeting with staff and others to discuss putting the brakes on the rollout.

At that meeting, the report said, "there were strong objections from some stakeholders about moving forward, however, it was concluded that by then it was too late to switch back to the legacy system for the August school opening."

The report also blamed the district's Internet technology department for failure to "allocate adequate resources for program oversight" and for not ensuring that schools had the equipment and software needed to support the system before rollout.

But it did not point blame at the top echelon of district administrators.

School board member Tamar Galatzan, who called for the inspector general investigation, said in a statement that she was "disappointed" the inspector general's staff had not interviewed Deasy for the report. But she said, "At this point, little would be served by expending the resources to pursue a more extensive investigation."

She said L.A. Unified should instead focus on carrying out the inspector general's recommendations, which included developing a new project plan, creating a full-time staff dedicated to the project and hiring an independent, third-party evaluator to oversee it.


Follow Abby Sewell on Twitter at @sewella.