How Did We Get Here?
What is now MiSiS has been nearly 20 years in the making. Read below to learn more about the District's need for an all-encompassing student information system.
1996 - 2002
The District settled in a class action lawsuit that was brought on behalf of a tenth grade student who had been programmed incorrectly because the school was missing critical records. Part of the settlement was a federal mandate—known as the Chanda Smith Decree—with which the District agreed to comply.
2003 - 2009
In 2003, The Chanda Smith Decree became the Modified Consent Decree, indicating the Board of Education’s commitment to comply with all applicable laws governing tracking and providing educational services to students.
Among the outcomes in the Modified Consent Decree was a commitment to build a fully integrated student information system that tracked all data connected to every student across grade levels and locations. The new system—called the Integrated Student Information System (ISIS)—was designed to replace 26 non-integrated legacy systems.
Shortly thereafter, the District contracted with a firm to adopt a product called SchoolMAX for LAUSD’s needs. The tool was designed to include all modules for student data management, including attendance, enrollment, grades, counseling, discipline, and a great deal more.
The first phase of ISIS was rolled out in 2010, allowing over 30,000 teachers to take attendance and input grades electronically. A second phase was planned to include all remaining program modules; however, the District experienced many challenges with software
development and SchoolMAX’s performance. In response, the District conducted analyses of potential alternatives to meet its goals in a more timely and cost-effective manner.
Based on careful analysis, the District began moving in a different direction in 2012. The District mapped out a two-year project to redevelop and release the data system on code that had been developed in a partnership between Microsoft and the Fresno Unified School District. The District re-branded ISIS as MiSiS (“My Integrated Student Information System”). The new platform was believed to provide greater flexibility, user-friendliness, and cost effectiveness; the District owns the code, pays no licensing fees, and is able to modify the system on an ongoing basis.
In 2013, the first modules of MiSiS were made available to schools, including the new grade book, allowing teachers to create and manage classroom assignments and track student progress, new scheduling modules and reporting tools, and others. In the summer and fall 2014, all remaining modules of MiSiS were released as a comprehensive replacement for ISIS and the legacy elementary and secondary student information systems (ESIS and SSIS, respectively). The roll out of the new system created a myriad of challenges for schools, including bugs in the software, incorrect data, and performance problems. The challenges rose to a level of gravity that new leadership was appointed to lead a comprehensive MiSiS Recovery Effort.
Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines returned to LAUSD in October 2014 and expressed his intent to fix the MiSiS problem in his address to the Board of Education on Day One. He immediately appointed Diane H. Pappas, a veteran leader in the District, to provide direct daily oversight over the new MiSiS Recovery Effort. Once appointed, Ms. Pappas went to work revamping processes and restructuring the project organization in alignment with recommendations provided by a variety of expert analysts.
The new “pod” structure was comprised of a number of teams, each of which focused on critical functional areas related to student data, including enrollment, attendance, scheduling, grades, and English learners. The pods managed all processes related to their respective areas, providing end-to-end development, with thorough requirement gathering involving actual system users (usually in the form of focus groups), planning and development, quality assurance, support, and training. Each pod also worked side-by-side with relevant business owners—those responsible for governing policies concerning student data (Special Education, Pupil Services and Attendance, Curriculum and Instruction, and the Office of Data and Accountability, among others) to ensure system development was in line with relevant policies governing student data management. Ms. Pappas also made the decision to bring organizational change management, user support, and training under a single umbrella, providing a higher quality customer service experience for school employees.
2015Soon after reorganizing the District saw a swift transformation in the rate at which user feedback was gathered and translated into blueprints for system improvement. Restructuring of the training and support teams also enabled the MiSiS team to address the learning and support needs of users more quickly and efficiently. The continued partnership with experts from Microsoft and other industry leaders helped improve the quality of the system dramatically in a period of months. Ms. Pappas conducted daily meetings with leaders from Microsoft to develop an improved long-term plan to complete development of a sustainable system for years to come. Out of these conversations emerged a short term two-month plan and long term twelve-month plan to identify and provide critical fixes to MiSiS.
Ms. Pappas resumed appropriate project governance via regular meetings with a project steering committee and business advisory committee. She engaged in regular ongoing conversations with the School Construction Bond Citizens' Oversight Committee to keep them apprised of ongoing progress and seek their guidance in prudent investment of capital funds to improve the District's student data system. She also led the process to obtain an independent third party oversight group providing unbiased analysis of the ongoing approach to improving MiSiS, flagging any potential obstacles to progress so they could be addressed in an efficient and timely manner.
In addition to the leadership provided by Ms. Pappas, analysis by technical architects—including the District's new Chief information Officer, Shahryar Khazei, who has a detailed understanding of the District's technological environment—led to important upgrades to underlying hardware improving the performance of MiSiS even during the final week of the school year when thousands of teachers, counselors, and administrative staff were entering and handling millions of pieces of student data at once. Whereas most major software companies may provide upgraded versions of their products on a quarterly basis, the MiSiS team has been releasing new versions with fixes and enhancements on a weekly basis for most of 2015. Releases during the spring months included over 130 new updates on average.
Under Ms. Pappas' and Mr. Khazei's leadership, the team is now heavily focused on ensuring schools are fully equipped to manage enrollment, scheduling, and attendance taking for students on the opening day of the 2015-16 school year. The team is taking a proactive stance by looking ahead to milestones schools must be prepared to meet early in the fall (and beyond) and providing the planning and development needed to support meeting requirements. Although no major technical problems are anticipated during the early weeks of the school year, a multi-tiered support plan is in development as a precautionary measure so that the District is prepared to address any problems that may arise swiftly and effectively. Throughout the remainder of 2015-16, the team will focus on building the capacity needed to support and enhance the system as needed in future years to accommodate evolving requirements related to student data.