Here are the notes from Sept.21/17. Practice and assignment questions are included.
Howdy . I have decided, after wrestling with the SaskPolyTech site, I’m going to resurrect this web blog from my uni days. I will be posting all sorts of fun things here that are, hopefully, related to the course…
I have added everything to date down below. Each night’s class will have a separate entry to make it easier to read. Clicking on each of the links below will download the file to your machine.
The immediate impact on stakeholders is obvious: there would be less money all around to distribute to other areas such as transportation, building maintenance, staffing, or professional development opportunities. I cannot say whether or not the Ministry would allocate any funds in order to offset the costs of implementing a new system. Considering the current economic climate I would assume not.Therefore, the impact on students and teachers cannot be taken lightly.
I have searched through the budgets posted on Regina Public’s website to see if I could determine the approximate cost of the implementation of PowerSchool to compare it to the quote I received from Alma, but I was unable to find out where in the budget this would be. It did not look like there was a massive increase in operational costs in the years I associated with the start of Regina Public’s use of PowerSchool.
A change like this cannot be undertaken in one year. A school board must ensure that there is enough of a contingency fund to offset the extra costs this would have. There must be a plan for any unexpected costs arising during the school year that had not been budgeted for.
Because this would be a gradual process, impact on stakeholders would be distributed over the course of years rather than months.
As discussed previously, buy-in from stakeholders would take place through surveys, forums, and participation in working committees. Hopefully by eliciting comments and suggestions from staff members, this change can proceed with little resistance.
Failure in this endeavor would look like a refusal to accept or acknowledge that PowerSchool could be problematic because of its genesis and corporation.
The report to taxpayers would have to be thoroughly detailed indicating that all possible outcomes have been analyzed. The case for social justice would have to be made in very clear, concise terms so that it is obvious why Pearson-developed software is problematic. Unfortunately, in this conservative province, this is potentially the source for the biggest backlash of the change. The general public does not appreciate change in education for a variety of reasons, mostly due to the cost. I would anticipate that board meetings would have open forums to educate people on the change proposed. School trustees would be tasked with communicating to their constituents the dangers of Pearson and what makes Alma the more positive choice for students and teachers.
I think, most obviously, the resistors will be teachers, parents, administrators, superintendents, directors, and Ministry staff who do not like change. Especially expensive change.I think this will be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. A strong case for the change must be made that includes detailed cost breakdown of the removal of PowerSchool, the cost of breaking contracts, the cost of implementation, and training. When PowerSchool was implemented, the board saved money by having teachers learn about the new system over the summer rather than using Professional Development time or other instructional time. I would promote this idea as a way to offset some of the costs involved in getting teachers used to the new system.
By providing cost analysis, it can be proven that a change, while expensive in the short term, can have many long term benefits.
Before the change is detailed, an explanation of the corporate history of PowerSchool should be given. There should be an emphasis on the lack of equality implicit within a program developed by Pearson. This alone should encourage a change, though there may be more convincing that is needed. As well, the results from the teacher survey could be used as further leverage that change is needed. PowerSchool has a reputation for having a lot of downtime and maintenance issues, as I have discovered personally. In my experience, at least once a month, PowerSchool is unavailable during school hours. This means I am unable to log attendance, as is my legal obligation, or enter grades. This causes mass confusion and frustration and adds time to the end of my day as I try and catch up. Comparing downtimes and maintenance schedules will help make the case as it would increase productivity to have a system that did not have technical issues on a consistent basis.
In researching the alternative I discovered, Alma, I found that one of the features not supported by them is Special Education. PowerSchool does support Special Education. However, I am not sure what is meant by supporting Special Education. I was unable to find out if this feature in PowerSchool means that IPPs are stored or that specialized applications are integrated. I have not used or heard of Special Education features in PowerSchool being used in Regina Public. As far as I am aware, student support is managed through CLEVR.
Currently, I work at Campbell Collegiate, which is a large secondary school. There are approximately 1 300-1 500 students registered with approximately 100 staff members. There, I teach English Language Arts to 9-12.
Part of my duties include Core Leader, which is the same thing as a Department Head. In this position, I am responsible for communication between administration and staff, creating professional development opportunities for staff in my core, and managing system goals.
My school district is Regina Public Schools with approximately 22 000 students, K-12. There are also affiliate schools with the board, such as Huda School and Luther.
Current State of Matters:
Currently, the Regina Board of Education uses former Pearson software, called PowerSchool and Gradebook, as their Student Information System (SIS). This suite includes parental tools called ParentPortal which allows parents real time access to attendance and achievement. The companion, StudentPortal, allows students the same access.
PowerSchool was implemented in 2010 and replaced Student Information Records System (SIRS).
Roll out was extensive with teachers required to do modular learning in June and over the summer in order for the system to be workable by September.
Not all features of PowerSchool were immediately available. Teachers began by using the Gradebook system (which is a web based system) and PowerSchool. After approximately 3 years, ParentPortal and StudentPortal were opened up with learning sessions for parents at parent-teacher conferences.
From anecdotal conversations with administration, Regina Public purchased a version of PowerSchool. Since that purchase, additional updates have been purchased in order to keep the system current. However, the division is not running the most recent versions of PowerSchool as the cost to purchase is too high. Again, this information is from an administrator who had completed a PowerSchool course to help them complete timetables within that system.
PowerSchool was developed by Pearson, the behemoth educational conglomerate. In 2015, Pearson agreed to sell PowerSchool to Vista Equity Partners, a venture capitalist firm that specialises in acquiring software, particularly financial software. PowerSchool now operates as PowerSchool LLC, a completely separate entity from Pearson. PowerSchool has made several acquisitions since its departure from Pearson, consistent with its parent company’s vision.
PowerSchool has faced criticism in Canada about the cost of its programming versus the benefit of implementation. As well, the ParentPortal aspect of PowerSchool can be empowering to parents and students as a way to monitor achievement and attendance, but it can also lead to teacher stress and helicopter parenting.
Furthermore, the concept of corporate responsibility and accountability to customers has gained prominence. The idea that a corporation cannot take whatever actions they please in search of the greatest profits is something that is a new concept in today’s educational and technological environments. Customers, such as school divisions, expect that companies they are dealing with have transparent sets of ethics and accounting. Corporations are being held to a greater standard.
I believe that because of PowerSchool’s history and current owners, that the corporate responsibility expected of them cannot be met. I believe that any ties to Pearson, past or present, taints a company’s credibility. Pearson is in the business of continuing systemic inequalities in education for profit. I cannot even begin to post the innumerable articles detailing how awful Pearson is for education. Those nine articles are a sampling of the over 1 million results for a Google search of “Pearson education bad”.
This alone should worry any educator. Any ties, especially for one concerning student data, should be examined. Pearson is single-handedly destroying the credibility of teachers by disseminating the idea that learning is objective and can be measured through standardized tests. They are eliminating the purpose of school divisions because they are promoting the idea that education is one size fits all and that school divisions do not need to be responsive to individual needs.
Pearson appears to run contrary to every single ideal that Critical Theory stands for. Companies founded by Pearson seem to have the same ideas that their parent company has: maintaining social inequalities through unequal access to education.
Regina Public has the obligation to ensure they are setting the very highest of standards in the selection of software for students. Regina Public serves a diverse population and as such should ensure that the companies they are paying money to can and will support all students, regardless of who they are or where they are from. This is a basic tenant of public education: education for all.
Clearly, switching a SIS is a massive undertaking. It must be carefully researched and costs of implementation must be considered. SIS must address every possible avenue of need from each corner of the educational system. It must be accessible by teachers, first and foremost, as teachers are the ones that consistently access an SIS, multiple times a day for a variety of reasons. It needs to be user-friendly for parents whose technological literacy may not be that of their children. It needs to be easy to navigate for students who wish to stay informed of their progress. It needs to be formatted in a way that administrators have ease of access to data, timetabling, and contact information. Finally, the SIS must be able to interface with Ministry software as ultimately, that is who administrators must answer to.
With all of this in mind, an all encompassing SIS should not be chosen lightly.
The positive outcome of this selection would be increased ease of use, an SIS that is responsive to the needs of our division rather than our division changing to fit the constraints of the SIS. An SIS contains all information about students, both academic, personal, and medical.
The personal data of all students is stored within the SIS and is accessible by all staff members. This also means that the owner of the software, the developer themselves, could also have access to all of this data. In addition to examining the usability of the software, the division should also examine the privacy of the software. Is it vulnerable in any way? How long is data stored? Where is the data stored? Who has access? What fail safes to unauthorized access are there?
The potential issues to implementing a new system across a division are obvious: cost, staff buy-in and training. A system change such as this cannot be done in sections; it must be completed all at once in order to ensure continuity for staff and students. Reticence and resistance should be expected from staff, as teachers, from my experience, are not the most accepting of change.
Rationale for the change should be explicitly discussed with staff. This would help staff adjust as there would be transparent reasoning behind the change.