Tuesday, May 05, 2015

KDE Considers Offloading Touted Online System to Districts

$35 million spent on programs since 2011
This from Brad Hughes at KSBA:
Two major Kentucky Department of Education online systems – CIITS for teacher training, classroom tools, student academic data and educator evaluations and ASSIST for tracking and reporting improvement – face uncertain futures.

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said Thursday that he will decide by May 30 whether the four-year-old CIITS (Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System) will remain operational for the 2015-16 school year or if CIITS or parts of it will go away with the state’s districts required to pick up some data functions. The same question will be considered for ASSIST (Adaptive System of School Improvement Tools).

In the monthly KDE webinar for superintendents, Holliday and his chief of staff, Dr. Tommy Floyd, said a four-issue survey will go out to superintendents today, with a two-week period for gathering local feedback on whether they favor continuing the state-provided resources next school year or turning some functions over to districts – with no additional state funding.

“You haven’t paid anything yet on CIITS, so there would be no money sent to districts,” Holliday said. “We have squeezed the department budget, used grant and third-party money for this program. A lot of that money would go away because we would no longer be providing (the services). So any local decisions to use other platforms – there are a lot of platforms out there that are free and a lot that would have a significant cost – any cost would be borne by the local district.”

CITTS has been developed and expanded since Aug. 1, 2011 through a partnership between KDE, KET, and NCS Pearson SchoolNet, a major national education services firm. AdvancED, another large K-12 focused corporation, has partnered with KDE on ASSIST. Since the two programs’ inception, KDE has invested more than $35 million in them to provide services to districts through four primary components:
      · EDS (Educator Development Suite) – teacher and principal growth and effectiveness/evaluations, $7.5 million.
      · PD 360 – professional development resources for teachers, $12.5 million.
      · IMS (Instructional Management System) – classroom tools for teachers and students, $11.3 million.
      · ASSIST – used for reporting related district data to KDE, $4 million. 
CIITS has drawn praise – the U.S. Department of Education touted it as the best such system in the country – and criticism, mainly from teachers over EDS-related glitches which the department says have been fixed. ASSIST also has had its critics over difficulties district personnel have had in using that system to submit reports.

But in 2014 alone, CIITS recorded nearly 44,000 unique teacher uses, 3,600 logins by administrators and more than 2.2 million accesses by students.

“Since CIITS is provided by the department to bring resources together in one place, we believe it’s time to ask districts where they are with respect to utilization and the value of CIITS and then give feedback to the department,” Floyd said during the webinar. “The question is should KDE continue to provide a statewide solution for continuous improvement, IMS, EDS, ASSIST and PD 360, or should the department abandon a statewide solution and allow districts to pursue local options?

“It the state is not providing the CIITS (or ASSIST) for 2015-16, the cost of these resources would primarily fall to districts,” he said. “Regardless of the funds source, remember that the buying power of the state level is hard to compare with any purchase capability at the local level. Taking away a state-provided technology system will not remove several major regulatory requirements. Districts will be responsible for cost and time involved to identify the method and storing and developing evidences of the components, to share CSIP and CDIP (comprehensive school and district improvement plans) documents, standards implementation, instruction and assessments.”

Holliday urged superintendents to talk to their central office teams, district technology coordinators, principals and teachers before answering the four-question survey: Should KDE maintain CIITS’ IMS, PD 360, EDS and/or ASSIST programs, all or in part, for the 2015-16 school year?

“I’m giving you about two weeks (to respond to the survey). My staff will put results together with all of the data in presentation to make a final recommendation. I’ll make a final decision by May 30, so you at the local level can look at other options (if a component is discontinued) for the coming school year,” the commissioner said.

Holliday, who announced April 1 that he would be retiring Aug. 31, said the long-term decisions about the functions currently covered by CIITS and ASSIST will be dependent on decisions by his successor and the General Assembly.

“The only commitment I can make is for the 2015-16 budget year. From the very beginning there has been a commitment that this would be a state-provided product and local districts would not have to bear the cost of this software. I commit that there will be no district costs for 2015-16,” he said.

“There is absolutely no way we could do an RFP process to procure a new software package and have it available for the 2015-16 school year. So I would prefer the new commissioner survey superintendents as to possibility of exploring a new RFP process,” Holliday said.

1 comment:

Bringyoursaddlehome said...

Does anyone really feel that we have significantly increased student achievement so as to justify giving 35 million to outside vendors for this convoluted tech system?

Touting its usage numbers is pretty deceptive when you consider that everyone is required to use it anyway. Interesting thing is that by their own accounting we still have some folks who don't even try to use if yet life still goes on.

The platform is some attempt to centralized teacher/school data. It actually has very little instructional value in my opinion. Telling a teacher that needs assistance with differentiation or classroom management to log on to watch a video really isn't my idea of providing PD.

Funny how we lost our KETS funds but somehow ended up paying for this electronic big brother system because we made a deal with Uncle Sam. Wonder what we could have done with some of that 35 million if spent directly on students? Definitely can kiss KETS and other district $ goodbye if we keep it.

Bottom line is Commissioner and company made some big promises in order to get some one-time RTT dollars. Now he is leaving town and there probably isn't going to be any more fed dollars to assist in its operation yet we still have to live up to the promises made to Uncle Sam. So now it seems like we are telling districts that either they can expect less money from Frankfort in order to sustain all this overbearing tech structure or districts can absorb the responsibility and expense directly by taking control at home.

Additionally, the systems aren't very user friendly, educators don't see them as being particularly valuable.