Veto Stirs Concerns Over California Data System

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The feud continues over California’s problem-plagued school data system, with the latest clash coming after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger used his line-item veto authority to cut $6.8 million from the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, known as CALPADS.

The governor’s decision came after he signed the state’s $87.5 billion fiscal 2011 budget, approved by lawmakers Oct. 8 after a lengthy impasse. His veto drew the wrath of state schools Superintendent Jack O’Connell, who called it “shortsighted, ill-informed, and hypocritical,” and said it will hinder the state’s ability to collect crucial information from schools.

“Rather than maintaining California’s course toward meeting its education data goals of helping all students reach their full potential,” Mr. O’Connell said in a statement, “the governor’s veto of CALPADS funding just sent California racing to the bottom of the heap.”

"The governor's veto ... just sent California racing to the bottom of the heap."
California State Schools Superintendent

But in a statement explaining his veto, Gov. Schwarzenegger said that the lack of a working data system hurt California’s application for a share of $4 billion in the federal Race to the Top grant competition, whose final winners were announced in August. Other states, he said in a statement, have put together data systems with few of the woes California has incurred.

“Enough is enough,” the governor said. “I am concerned that the resources allocated for this purpose lack necessary accountability to ensure that the citizens of California receive a high-quality longitudinal educational data system.”

Rocky Road

The CALPADS system, built by IBM, is designed to allow for an examination of student test scores, demographic data, teacher assignment by course, and individual students’ course enrollment and completion.

Since its rollout a year ago, however, the system has been dogged by technical issues, including complaints from school districts about difficulty in being able to enter student data. Earlier this year, Mr. O’Connell ordered a top-to-bottom review of the system and put a stop to any changes to it until it was complete. (California Data System Struggles to Clear Hurdles, Oct. 13, 2010.)

Since then, however, state education department officials have said they have worked with IBM to improve CALPADS. Mr. O’Connell told reporters in a conference call last week that CALPADS is now collecting valuable information, with more than 90 percent of the state’s districts and charter schools having successfully submitted data.

Keric Ashley, the director of the California education department’s data-management division, said the veto would leave many districts without critical help to navigate the system. The state receives 70 calls a day for help with data, Mr. Ashley estimated. The veto also hinders state officials’ ability to oversee IBM’S work, he added.

The governor argued that the state has spent $150 million on longitudinal school data systems in California, but Mr. Ashley said that figure melds money from different sources, with much of that aid flowing directly to school districts. Mr. Ashley also said that the cuts undermine the state’s ability to compile a four-year cohort graduation rate, which would jeopardize its ability to meet requirements of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, which was part of the federal economic stimulus.

The governor does not believe that the ability to collect and report that required data would be weakened by the funding cuts, said a spokesman for his office, Matt Connelly. Mr. Schwarzenegger believes the department has proven “incapable of effectively managing CALPADS,” and he is determined to hold the agency to a higher standard, Mr. Connelly added.

Vol. 30, Issue 09, Page 16

Published in Print: October 27, 2010, as Schwarzenegger Veto Reignites Squabble Over California Data System
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