LAUSD software inflicts scheduling chaos

In South L.A. and elsewhere, the L.A. Unified School District’s

buggy software has thwarted plans for students and teachers alike.

Misis | Matt Tinoco

Crenshaw High senior Simone Al-Alim and her father, Kahllid Al-Alim, are pressing the L.A. County Superior Court to investigate the district’s handling of its glitchy software.  | Matt Tinoco

Speaking to an audience of stakeholders in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s boardroom who seemed to already know what he was going to say, Superintendent Ramon Cortines announced that the district is, indeed, committed to resolving the slew of issues stemming from its new My Integrated Student Information System, MISIS for short. Doing so, however, will cost the district both time and money, Cortines said.

MISIS is LAUSD’s attempt to improve and standardize computer records across the district. The system is supposed to provide a centralized location for teachers, administrators and parents to access student information about all of their classes at any time. In addition, the system is supposed to assemble student schedules and class rosters, automatically, as well as to provide teachers with a place to take attendance.

Getting these promised features to work, however, proved more difficult than simply flicking on the switch. At Jefferson High School in South Los Angeles, the MISIS scheduling features failed to generate schedules for several hundred students. Without schedules, students were simply directed to sit in the auditorium until the school could figure out how to fix the system. They were in there for weeks, idly passing the time while administrators allegedly worked to construct a solution, according to the Los Angeles Times. Given that graduation is predicated on class-time, the students spent weeks without advancing their graduation goals.

District officials told reporters that at least 48 Jefferson High seniors were unable to attend classes needed for graduation. An additional 204 students were given schedules that directed them to classes they had already passed, or ones they hadn’t asked for that did not contribute to their graduation requirements.

misis 1

The MISIS system fired up on an LAUSD laptop — but is it ready to run? | Matt Tinoco

All this prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to step in and sue the state of California for providing inadequate public education. On Oct. 8, a California Superior Court Judge issued a restraining order forcing state education officials to address problems with the LAUSD superintendent and specifically at Jefferson High.

One week later, after a flurry of press releases, LAUSD’s board announced a $1.1 million plan to remedy the MISIS issues at Jefferson, and to audit other campuses checking for similar issues. The plan’s guidelines include extending the school day 30 minutes to help students make-up lost classroom time, as well as providing extra tutoring and evening transportation to those same students.

Jefferson’s problems were likely the worst in the district, especially given the added pressures of seniors needing completed transcripts to apply to colleges. But the campus was hardly unique when it came to experiencing the disfunction of MISIS.

From day one, teachers across the district reported it was an extremely buggy system. At many campuses, teachers were unable to take attendance or input grades, and had incorrect class rosters.

“In the MISIS system I can no longer tell what any of my students’ schedules are,” said one middle school teacher from Lakewood. “The child must be relied upon to tell teachers that things are amiss.”

Teachers spoke to Intersections on the condition of anonymity, due to the possibility of repercussions from the district.

Another teacher said, “I’ve wasted valuable instructional time trying to take attendance and log in to MISIS.”


The LAUSD School Board is struggling to get software fixes in place. | Matt Tinoco

Frustrated teachers hemorrhaging time on a system that doesn’t work has a ripple effect for students. Compounding the back-end issues with the software, many teachers also felt the district had inadequately prepared them to use the new system. An internal survey conducted by United Teachers Los Angeles South found that, of the survey participants, only 22 percent reported receiving training. The same survey found that 77 percent of the responsive teachers believed the “district is unnecessarily burdening teachers at the beginning of a new year.”

“The training we received was less comprehensive instruction for those who were inevitably going to use the system, and more a quick check-off sheet for district officials to say ‘yes, our staff are trained,’” said a teacher at Manual Arts High School who asked to remain anonymous.

At some schools, one or two teachers were sent to a training session with the expectation that they would return to their campuses and instruct the staff to use MISIS. Results were mixed at best.

Parents quickly picked up on the computer system’s glitches as well. For many, the system’s failure meant that their children were suddenly in a situation where they potentially might not graduate, or not get enrolled in classes crucial for college acceptance.


Crenshaw High senior Simone Al-Alim and her father, Kahllid Al-Alim, held a press conference outside LAUSD’s School Board meeting. | Matt Tinoco

On Oct. 21, two parents filed a request for the Los Angeles County Superior Court to launch a Grand Jury investigation into LAUSD’s handling of MISIS. Kahllid Al-Alim, one of the parents, heavily criticized the district, demanding that the those in charge audit all schools to ensure no students are left behind as the year moves forward – students like his daughter Simone, a senior at Crenshaw High in South L.A.

“She’s applying to college, but she wasn’t able to get a crucial biology class on her schedule at the beginning of the school year,” said Al-Alim in a press conference announcing the request in front of LAUSD’s downtown headquarters. “She needs that class to graduate. We needed fixes yesterday, not tomorrow.”

Simone Al-Alim, who hopes to attend Fordham University, had come along to voice her concern, incidentally on a school day. “I’m a student and they’re supposed to be working for my benefit,” she said. “But it’s not happening, and now I’m worried that my future might be messed up because of this glitch..”

This week, Superindendant Cortines announced the termination of Bria Jones, originally contracted to supervise the district’s migration to MISIS.

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