Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Infinite Questions

We’ve been covering the teething problems with the Kentucky Department of Education’s new computer support program for schools (see here, here, here and here) for some time.

The first version, known as STI, failed some time ago.

The replacement, known as Infinite Campus, has just now become operational in all school districts – more or less. But, the start-up issues are far from over, as hearings before the Kentucky Board of Education today made clear.

One of the potentially good features of Infinite Campus is a parent portal which allows parents to check, daily if they want, on things like their child’s actual presence in class and grades. However, discussions in today’s meeting of the Kentucky Board of Education indicate a number of districts have yet to implement this feature, due in part to security concerns that the wrong parent might be coded against the wrong student.

One of the not good features of Infinite Campus is the vast increase in data entry requirements. During the board meeting, one member asked if adopting this new technology had improved efficiency and reduced labor needs. The presenter admitted that the opposite was happening, as districts were having to add staff to feed the voracious appetite of this data monster (which, among other things, collects a fair amount of information about whole families, not just the individual student).

One last observation came from a demonstration to the board of the features of Infinite Campus. The presenter had lots of problems logging in, first as a teacher, and in several other cases including as a state level administrator. We all know that computers can be cranky, but with at least three log-on “crumps,” I wonder if districts are having similar problems.

So, if you work with this system, let us know about problems you are having. We’ll fully understand if you log on anonymously so you don’t feel threatened.

Oh, one more point. The board heard that the annual costs for the state to operate Infinite Campus runs about $5.5 million, and that does not seem to include any district or school level support costs like those extra programmers. But, Infinite Campus isn’t ready to support longitudinal data tracking, which is needed under the new SB-1, so up that cost by another $1 million at least.

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