- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Developers of Idaho’s new student data collection system underestimated the increased workload for school districts, according to state evaluators.

Lance McCleve from the Office of Performance Evaluations told the House Education Committee Thursday that school districts weren’t involved in the development process. Many districts don’t see why some of the data collected is useful, he said.

“Technology was not the problem,” said Rakesh Mohan, the director of Idaho’s Office of Performance Evaluations. “The communication was the problem. The stakeholders, users and program people were not consulted sufficiently.”

Evaluators say the new system required some districts to change their staffing because the new data collecting format required more time. It also requires school district leaders to submit the data in a new format.

The changes have also prompted some districts to collect information they hadn’t before, evaluators said.

The state’s Department of Education rolled out the system to school districts in October 2010. Previously, education data was not linked from year to year.

Tim Corder, special assistant to the superintendent, says he agrees with the report’s findings, but says the system has served its basic purpose of helping the state comply with federal guidelines.

“This administration was not part of the problem, but we are guaranteeing to you that we are part of the solution,” Corder told the panel.

Previously, leaders in specific areas - like special education or food service - in each school district gave their data directly to their counterpart at the state department level. But under the new system, all of the information goes through data collection staff at the state education department.

“Data collection was centralized at the department,” said Jennifer Tomlinson, who contributed to the report. “The districts had to start centralizing their data collection as well.”

McCleve says a special burden falls on school districts that are too big to integrate the reporting into their current structure, but too small to hire full-time staff for the task.

Republican Rep. Reed DeMordaunt from Eagle, who chairs the committee, said he was concerned that the group’s report didn’t look at the whole picture, but focused only on things that went wrong.

McCleve said he recommends a full cost-benefit analysis, but that was beyond the scope of the group’s assignment.

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