Teachers query new Correspondence School system
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The troubled student management system (SMS) at the NZ Correspondence School (Te Kura) is nearing completion, says its CEO. Teachers, however, say it will still be hard to use.
The new SMS went through two false starts in implementation, but the School still took the course of closing down the old systems before the new one was fully functioning. This has landed it with a non-functioning system and recourse to complex work-arounds.
The rationale for closing down the old system was to freeze the data so that a coherent snapshot could be transferred, without the disruptive effect of the old data still being updated, former chief executive Mike Hollings said in a statement for the school’s internal publication Link-Up last month. Hollings has since been seconded to Education Minister Hekia Parata’s office.
“Transferring information from these old systems to the new one is one of the last tasks to be performed in the changeover, because it is crucial that the information is up-to-date. For this reason, the four existing systems had to be shut down so the process of transferring data into the new system could begin,” Hollings wrote.
“On the day before the new SMS was due to be launched, it became obvious that the transfer of data into the system hadn’t gone as smoothly as planned. The data held in our existing systems was so complex and the volume so extensive, that a large amount of data had not been transferred successfully. We believed the problems could be resolved relatively quickly and that the best option was to press ahead and use the aspects of SMS that were functioning as they should while we worked to resolve the data transfer issues.”
The SMS is used to hold information about students from enrolment through to completion of their studies, as well as details of every learning resource available to students. Teachers use the SMS to record assessment information as well as to order resources to be sent to students.
The Post-Primary Teachers’ Association has complained that the system was not available when sorely needed for enrolment of new students and contends the data transfer should have been done earlier to ensure bugs were overcome before that major workload arrived. PPTA estimates the cost of developing the system, including the false starts, at $12m.
Moreover, the union says, even disregarding the data transfer problems, the system continues to be user-unfriendly, requiring more keystrokes to enter equivalent information than the old system did.
“SMS has impeded and slowed down [teachers’] work, coming between them and their teaching,” PPTA wrote to the chair of the school’s Board of Trustees, Trish McKelvey on June 29. “Even with teachers becoming more familiar with its workings, the experience is that it is much slower to use than previous systems and being non-intuitive, takes the attention away from normal teaching duties. Service to students is gravely and undoubtedly affected.
“Senior teachers, team leaders and curriculum leaders say SMS does not give them the tools to effectively manage the curriculum, pastoral care and teaching that are required of the school.
“The number of keystrokes for the simplest of tasks has increased dramatically, leading to an anticipated increase of OOS, which is already being manifested.” Te Kura’s acting CEO Robert Blucher says the problems with the system are now nearing full resolution.
“Data for all students has now been successfully migrated into the new system, with the exception of assessment data,” he says in a statement to Computerworld. “We are using the system for core activities such as student enrolments, allocation of teachers and subjects, stock control, financial management, and ordering/dispatch of work for students.
“The last remaining core functionality, related to recording assessments, is in the user testing stage and will be rolled out to teaching staff at the beginning of the term. This was a planned variation to the system that has been delayed while Te Kura and supplier iTS worked on resolving the data migration and other related issues.
“We are aware of and accept the concerns that have been expressed by staff around the usability of the system, and we thank them for their feedback,” says Blucher. “Some are valid concerns about the flexibility of the system to cater to Te Kura’s needs, and others are related to its ‘user-friendliness’, such as the number of keystrokes required to complete a task.
“We have initiated a process to consider the feedback from staff and look at how we could adapt the system to make it more workable for staff. Together with staff we will identify the priorities for any functionality changes and then work with iTS to determine what is feasible.
“A meeting has been set up with representatives from all levels of the teaching and administrative arms of the school at the beginning of term 3 so we can progress this work as soon as possible.”
Mike it is now time for you to be courageous. You have made a mistake on this one. There is a tough decision to be made that simply can't be dodged. This is a big one and it affects many people so it will be a particularly hard decision to make. Please listen to what people are saying on this one because they are right. You know that if you acknowledge your mistakes and make an honest attempt to put them right people are far more likely to respect you for it than if you deny your mistakes and try to whitewash them. So, lets dump the new SMS and go begging for another $12m and develop Akona into the software that The Correspondence School needs. And lets keep well away from those South Africans. They have proven themselves to be robbers. We have the expertise right here in New Zealand to produce world class, 21st century software.
Posted by Anonymous at 19:07:37 on August 7, 2012
The replacement system is imported from South Africa.
It is unlikely that the school will ever again get software of such high quality as the original. The result will be that in addition to the system cost, more teachers will be required for the same workload, and that the quality of education will be reduced.
Posted by Anonymous at 15:41:31 on August 3, 2012
Posted by Anonymous at 9:23:29 on July 30, 2012
The fact remains that the administration of Te Kura is blind to what has happened and is still happening. At least, that's how it appears. They are in a state of denial.
The most recent report, issued 23 July 2012 and entitled, 'SMS Action Plan', on the state of things to do with the new database, is based on the gathered information from two workshops involving dozens of people throughout the school. The report was prepared by the Operations Manager of Te Kura and approved by the acting CEO. The report completely washes over the main issues of staff moral and the inappropriate complexity of the database that does not actually address the needs of the teachers in the school.
I am a teacher at Te Kura, an SMS trainer at Te Kura, a taxpayer AND a parent of potential students of Te Kura. I loathe the way that these roles are being cast aside by the Administration at Te Kura.
They carry out their business as if taxpayer money is dispensable - as if teachers have nothing better to do than spend time trying to find ways of satisfactorily accessing and recording student data (which is their mandatory administrative duty) - as if trainers (who are teachers incidentally) have all the time in the world to find ways of showing their poor colleagues the easy pathways to use what is a wholly unworkable system for them - and as if students should be treated as business as usual.
Students are my life's work, for God's sake!
This is the year 2012. However, it would appear that in this erudite age the administrators at Te Kura are no better in their educated ways than Marie Antoinette.
"Let them eat cake".
Posted by Anonymous at 19:13:29 on July 27, 2012
This system may have been 'state of the art' in the 80's but times have moved on, we are now in the 21st century and this is NOT 21st century software. The service that The Correspondence School once offered is gone forever; it can never be the same while this system is in place.
I can understand Mr. Mike Hollings not being man enough to admit to his mistake. Nobody would like to admit to such a colossal and costly blunder. But we now have an acting CEO, Mr. Robert Blucher.
Mr. Blucher, please tackle this white elephant and get rid of it before we have to spend another $12m trying to fix it.
The only reason The Correspondence School is still functioning is through the generosity and professionalism of the teachers. But this willingness to hang in there for the students is starting to wear thin. I for one will be resigning as soon as I can make alternative arrangements. I have been a teacher for many years and I have been proud to work at The Correspondence School but I am no longer prepared to be a part of a system that totally ignores its staff.
Can people with the appropriate contacts please direct the media to this site and let them become more actively involved in this. What is happening here is an appalling waste of public money and it is very much akin to the INCIS disaster of the 1990's# http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/INCIS . Please let's arrest this one before any more money is wasted.
Posted by Anonymous at 20:57:55 on July 24, 2012
Where are the people who decided this is the right system for the school? Where are the ones who got the benefit of a trip overseas to view the system and perhaps make the decisions???
Disappeared no doubt. Bring em back and deal to them,I say.I think it is fitting that the "new" sytem is matched by the needless change of the school name. both were useless and unnecessary. Mr Hollings has been seconded to The Ministry of Education indefinitely, so between him and an Education Minister who knows next to nothing about Education (check out her record of crass blunders), we can just about give the kiss of death to education as it was and as we knew it.
God help the Ministry.
If only the parents knew how diabolical it has been to get work out to students, using this system.
Posted by Anonymous at 11:32:31 on July 24, 2012
Te Kura is now severely disabled, with teachers hugely distraught at the fate of their poor students, the true victims of this disaster. As well, these teachers are cruelly frustrated by arduous work-arounds and a malfunctioning, bug-ridden student management system that they have no option but to try to use in order to meet top management demands of business as usual.
Where is the accountability for this disaster? Ask the Minister of Education who seconded the CEO to work within the sheltered rooms of Parliament and the Board of Te Kura who approved the CEO's secondment, almost overnight, and who also approved the purchase of the replacement student management system for Te Kura.
Posted by Anonymous at 18:55:10 on July 23, 2012
Posted by Anonymous at 11:21:53 on July 23, 2012
Posted by Anonymous at 10:41:10 on July 23, 2012