CalPADS cut could hurt DataQuest, too

DataQuest, an online program that provides parents and educators with local and statewide school data, may be diminished as a result of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision to cut of $6.8 million from the state's longitudinal student data program.

Officials at the California Department of Education outlined Monday a potential worst case scenario" where the department would be forced to revert back to using the California Basic Educational Data System for DataQuest. But transitioning to CBEDS would burden schools and would not be able to provide the critical longitudinal tracking data needed for Title I through Title IV reporting.

Keric Ashley, director of the CDE's Data Management Division, said the question is over what state agency would take over the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System and whether that entity would also be able to operate DataQuest as well.

"You never want to whiplash districts like that because it's more work for them and anytime you change like that, it always brings up the possibility of not getting correct data," said Ashley.

Despite the department's claims, the outgoing Schwarzenegger administration is committed to finding a new home for CalPADS.

"The California Department of Education has proven they are incapable of effectively managing CalPADS and for that reason the governor is holding them accountable and will pursue bipartisan legislation to ensure an appropriate and capable entity is in charge of CalPADS," said Matt Connelly, Schwarzenegger spokesman, in an email.

Earlier this month, the governor axed funding for CalPADS monitoring through a line item veto in the 2010-11 budget.

The cut followed a troubled year for the system due to internal bugs. Data collecting was delayed for much of 2010 while the program contractor, IBM, performed a diagnostic and fixed a number of software problems.

In his veto message, the governor claimed the data system was still dysfunctional after costing the state $150 million over seven years.

But the governor's cut did not impact the $13.9 million contract with IBM. Instead, it was targeted at CDE and California School Information Services, which runs through the Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team and supports data collections from local educational agencies.

John Novak is the CalPADS coordinator for Long Beach Unified. While acknowledging past mistakes made by CDE on CalPADS oversight, Novak said the proposal to move data monitoring was ill-informed.

"I think it's a terrible idea. It would be a disaster," said Novak. "CalPADS is working right now. We had some real problems last year, basically because of some poor decisions on the part of CDE, IBM.

He added, "If CalPADS changes house, we're going to have to go through that same process again of people making bad decisions and us trying to figure out how to work around those bad decisions, and making corrections. There's no guarantee that anybody else is going to do it more smoothly."

According to Novak, if the department reverted to CBEDS and stopped reporting longitudinal data to the federal government, the state would lose federal funds because it would "be out of compliance on pretty much everything," he said.

The Schwarzenegger administration disagrees.

"The California Department of Education's ability to collect and report data required under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will not be impacted by the veto of CalPADS funding," said Connelly from the administration in an email.

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