The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction sent out a press release yesterday, hailing the success of Powerschool, which captures student data and information statewide.
The press release listed impressive numbers of parent log-ins as a way of making it seem that the product was really making a difference.
It’s catching on. In a single week this spring, more than 450,000 parents and students accessed the secure parent and student portals in PowerSchool, giving districts yet another approach to help strengthen parent engagement, a critical factor for student achievement.
“By using PowerSchool’s parent portal, we can connect parents to key data about their students’ schoolwork. This frees parents and teachers to spend their conference time discussing strategies to help students improve,” said State Superintendent June Atkinson.
What the release doesn’t say is that Powerschool is the only portal for parents. So of course large numbers of parents are logging on?
The press release also didn’t mention Powerschool’s failings.
These failings include a $7 million dollar maintenance rate, hundreds of ‘slow connectivity incidents’, missing deliverables and suspect payments to ‘contractors’.
Back in June, this site reported on a letter obtained that was sent by the HomeBase Leadership team to the NC Department of Public Instruction Leadership and PowerSchool team. The letter revealed that Powerschool was still rife with problems.
Excerpt from the June report:
Accompanying the letter was a spreadsheet with 286 incidents spanning 10 weeks, starting at the end of March and running through the beginning of June. The vast majority (around 90%) of these incidents involved ‘slow connectivity’, ‘loss of functionality’ and ‘down/unavailable’.
Under “Quality Assurance”, complaints included:
- “Broken items are consistently placed in QA for re-test without being thoroughly vetted or unit tested.”
- “Urgent and prioritized defects and issues are frequently not addressed within a reasonable timeframe. High priority items often sit for days, sometimes weeks, without tangible results, or progress updates.”
- “PowerSchool is inconsistent in following industry standard procedures for Quality Assurance.
Of note, under the bullet point, “Transition from In-House Project Support to Operational Support”, was this gem (emphasis added to the second half):
There has been a lot of discussion about this subject and we want to put it to bed. We were given a list of tasks that Greg Parish used to perform while he was based at NCDPI. The majority of these tasks require technical level access to servers that NCDPI has no access to, or require contacting various people within different
teams of PowerSchool, in order to coordinate support activities. We provided a specific response to Dan Gwaltney with the proposed transition steps on the few items that can be transitioned to NCDPI. As a response we received an SOW and a bill for Lorenzo’s services for $105,000. The SOW was actually a template written for your customers that host locally. It just seemed like a document put together with little effort in order to attach a bill to it. We have a contract with PowerSchool that costs more than $7 million per year for maintenance, support and
hosting operations; a turn-key solution. We expect that this is sufficient payment and find it absurd that PowerSchool wants to charge North Carolina extra money for work performed by specific members of your staff.
The letter also notes that the project is missing close-out items, yet NC DPIannounced in 2013 that the project was completed.
Using DPI’s 450,000 parent log in number and at a maintenance rate of $7 million, that’s just over $15 a log in.