- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - In a story March 26 about a failed public school software program, The Associated Press erroneously reported the background of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation. The foundation was created by the Albertsons’ supermarket chain’s founder, but it is not linked to the company or the supermarket’s charitable giving program.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Report: $61M wasted on Idaho’s student data tracking system

Report says $61 million wasted on ‘Schoolnet,’ Idaho’s student data tracking system


Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - State auditors say Idaho wasted $61 million on a software system to track and improve student performance that doesn’t work for most districts.

However, a top Idaho State Department of Education official on Tuesday says the blame does not rest with the agency’s current administration.

In a new report released Monday, the Office of Performance Evaluations found that the department gave all school districts access to Schoolnet but did not provide enough financial support or technical training. The department then minimized the system’s problems.

“Poor management, poor decisions, and poor system functionality compounded themselves and prevented the goals for a statewide instructional management system from being realized,” said Rakesh Mohan, director of the state’s independent evaluating office.

Mohan’s report included that the department was overly ambitious in the software it selected. When the state chose Schoolnet, the software was not designed to serve as a statewide platform. The department also lacked any oversight to evaluate if the software was beneficial to schools.

Department legislative liaison Tim Corder told the Joint Legislative Oversight panel during Tuesday’s meeting that the recent findings on the system, called Schoolnet, were accurate.

However, Corder added that former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna led the poor roll out of the program. He stressed that new public schools chief Sherri Ybarra’s administration would fix the problems created by the previous schools leader.

For example, the education department has roughly 1,500 service contracts, but during Luna’s term, there was no staffer in charge of reviewing contracts, Corder said.

“We want to leave you with a message that you can trust us, you can trust this administration,” Corder said. “We can count, we can. And we can calculate and we can spell, and we can do all the things you require us to do.”

In 2011, the state education department announced that the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation would give $21 million to buy the Schoolnet, a New York company owned by British-based publishing giant Pearson. The foundation - a nonprofit started by the founder of the Albertsons’ supermarket chain - had denied two prior state funding requests, citing concerns over a lack of detail in the department’s plan.

Once funding was secured, the software was promoted as a tool to better track student as they met key education benchmarks. But over time, the project attracted criticism that it was hard to use and the information wasn’t up-to-date.

Corder says the department no longer wants to maintain the statewide system. Instead, they want to keep the option open for schools to use the software.

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