Friday, February 21, 2014

Update! Pearson Sees Most of NC Users as Satisfied with PowerSchool---Huh?

Yesterday, I posted about the many issues we are struggling with North Carolina’s roll-out of the Pearson’s PowerSchool student data system. Today, there was an article of interest on the News and Observer web site entitled “NC Schools Dealing with Problem-Plagued State Computer System.” According to the article, North Carolina is spending $7.1 million dollars implementing PowerSchool this year. During the last decade, North Carolina also spent millions on the old but now defunct NC WISE data system. The article also says Pearson has corrected a lot of problems as well. But from a school's perspective, they haven't corrected the biggest problems we're experiencing. 

Still, I just can’t help but comment on this statement by Pearson spokesman Brandon Pinette:
“We are confident the system is working better every day, and that the majority of users are satisfied with the new capabilities they have.”
Now that statement is a bit puzzling. From where does Pearson obtain this “confidence?” Also, where do they get information about the "majority of users being satisfied with this product?" As far as I know, I haven’t seen any surveys or any other ways they have asked us, the customers, how things are going. When a company makes those assertions you just have to wonder who they're talking to.

I just had to email my parents today and apologize once again for problems caused by their issues. That makes three times this year, that I can recall, that I have had to apologize to parents for problems caused by Pearson’s PowerSchool. I can’t even count the number of times teachers have expressed frustration with the software. Parents have been understanding so far, but one can only imagine what's going to happen when some student loses out on getting into college because of a Pearson mishap on a high school transcript.

Pearson and the state needs to refocus their efforts to get PowerSchool to do the simplest of things. For example, the main capabilities that need to always work for high schools ( I can’t speak for elementary or middle schools) are:
  • Attendance Data: Need to flawlessly be able to enter and retrieve accurate attendance data.
  • Grading Data: Need to flawlessly be able to enter and retrieve grading data.
  • Reporting Functions: Need to be able to print effectively our most important reports. These include: progress reports (with accurate attendance data), report cards (with accurate attendance data, GPAs), and accurate transcripts.
From a school operations perspective, these are the must-have functions of any student data system. Whether it can interface with test-data systems, disciplinary data systems, or any other state systems is secondary to normal, everyday school operations. Focus should be on getting the primary functions schools need to work.

The state should have paid the extra money for a later roll-out or somehow negotiated better terms with Pearson. Yes, it has been difficult. I was around with the roll-out of NC WISE and it was difficult as well, but this Pearson PowerSchool rollout, in my opinion is ten times worse. And, to make matters worse, we actually have individuals who work for Pearson who think the majority of users are satisfied. Perhaps its nice when your company has a virtual monopoly on a product.


  1. We have been frustrated with PowerSchool in my district too. Our data manager just got back from a conference and told me that she expects to schedule students by hand again this year. "I'll let PowerSchool try first, but there are so many bugs that I need to have a back up plan." Wow, that is disappointing! I too remember the NC WISE rollout pain and I really expected this to be a lot smoother. We are able to create progress reports, but they are clunky and some other reports like honor roll are not working at all for us. We have also experienced the performance issues mentioned in the N&O article. Thanks for voicing the concerns of schools.

    1. Software of this scale need and require careful planning if you are considerate of the users. There's no company anywhere going to roll out software to a company or large block of customers the way Pearson did with PowerSchool in North Carolina. It was inconsiderate and all for profit I am positive. You would have thought North Carolina would have learned something from their disastrous NC WISE roll-out, but alas, they have even made a bigger mess than before. They state they saved tons of money by not waiting year, but what about all the lost time in districts in schools because we have had to redo something or do something by hand because of this mess? When I read this News and Observer article Pearson's arrogance about customer satisfaction was a slap in the face. They're not listening and neither are state level educators in this state. It is rather sad.