School board OKs pact for new student-data program

EDUCATION NOTEBOOK

July 20, 2008|By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV

The Howard County Board of Education unanimously approved a contract for a $1.5 million student-data computer program after a near two-year headache caused by a different bug-ridden and complicated program.

The board approved a three-year contract with X2 Development Corp. of Hingham, Mass., with funding to be provided by the 2009 capital budget.

Implementation of the new Student Information Management System (SIMS) will begin in elementary schools. The goal is to have each elementary networked by the end of the 2008-2009 school year. Middle and high schools should be brought online by the end of the following year.

Jose Stevenson, director of the school system's Office of Information Technology, expressed confidence in the new program.

"X2 is a relatively small company, but they are financially sound with low risk factors and with good credit," he told board members before they approved the contract this month.

The school system was able to negotiate X2 down by 5 percent from the initial bid.

The current system - Student Management System (SMS) - has been problematic since it was implemented in July 2005.

In the first quarter of the 2005-2006 school year, more than 1,700 report cards had to be reprinted because of a mix-up in grades. Third-quarter report cards for high school students were distributed a week late. Final report cards for seniors were distributed after graduation. School officials said the delay did not affect college admissions.

In August 2006, the school system mailed schedules to students at every high school but one almost three weeks later than planned because of SMS. The schedules for Reservoir, the exception, did not go out at all.

Though the delay was attributed to human error, system officials said the problem could have been corrected in time for the start of classes if school employees had not been tied up with SMS-related problems.

Like school systems across the nation, Howard County has pursued new student-data programs to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which requires that school systems report such student data as attendance, enrollment and disciplinary actions. To meet the requirements, school systems have said they need centralized computer programs.

The system is using three programs to collect student data. The combination has worked to alleviate many of the headaches that were found in the first year of implementation of SMS, system officials said.

Finance lesson

At a time of year when the biggest monetary concern for many youths is the cost of a movie ticket or an ice cream sundae, 300 students taking part in summer learning programs got broader lessons in personal finance last week.

On Monday at Hammond Middle School, students listened to a presentation by Darryl and Latricia Scrivenm whose seminar "Financial Literacy for Life" is based on their book, I Played Monopoly With My Daddy: Financial Education for All Ages.

"Students must be empowered on making the right choices that contribute to their overall economic well-being," said Patricia Branner-Pierce, a specialist with the Black Student Achievement Program, which put on the programs. "Many children are not exposed to basic financial concepts."

The program offers a four-week summer learning camp at Hammond Middle for second- through fifth-graders. The other program, Student Enrichment and Accelerating Achievement of Leadership, is offered for sixth- through 12th-graders.

Young writer makes mark

She is just going into first grade, but Michaela Stell is making a name for herself in the writing world.

The Columbia resident, who is home-schooled, took second place in the kindergarten category for the 14th annual Reading Rainbow Young Writers & Illustrators Contest. Her story, "Where Do Baby Teeth Go," delves into the journey of a lost tooth.

The contest encourages children to use their imagination and creativity to write and illustrate their storybooks, according to its organizers.

Michaela made it to the national competition after placing first in the kindergarten category during Maryland Public Television's statewide writing contest. Her story is one of 12 selected from more than 45,000 submissions.

As a result of her accomplishment, Michaela received a flat-panel TV with a DVD player and DVD and book sets of the PBS show Reading Rainbow. Her story will be posted on PBS's Web site next month at pbskids.org/readingrainbow. She received a savings bond for her victory at the local level.

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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