Teachers across BC are tearing out their hair in frustration over the repeated failures and sluggish performance of the Ministry of Education’s expensive centralized data system for collecting student information.
“Once again, BCeSIS is creating complete havoc with the start of the new school year,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert, referring to the British Columbia enterprise Student Information System. Lambert contacted Deputy Minister of Education James Gorman on Monday, and received assurances that the problems had been fixed. However, teachers province-wide continue to report it is dysfunctional.
“The system simply isn’t working. Teachers can’t log on, they can’t get class lists, can’t help students arrange program or course changes, can’t take attendance properly. They can’t access information about students with special needs, nor properly advocate for student services in the class-size and composition consultations that should be taking place right now. It’s causing enormous frustration due to wasted time and effort that should be devoted to teaching,” Lambert said.
Safety is key among teachers’ concerns about BCeSIS. Because teachers don’t have class lists, they don’t know which children are supposed to be in their classrooms. Especially in high schools with up to 2,000 students, it’s impossible for teachers to know whether all their students are present or not.
A survey done in 2009 in Langley found the level of expressed aggravation and dissatisfaction was undeniable, with 88% of teachers reporting that BCeSIS increased their level of work-related stress.
And it’s not only at the beginning of the school year that BCeSIS creates headaches across the school system. It frequently crashes at semester change and report card time, losing students’ marks and teachers’ comments. One teacher wrote:
“Asking for reports on problems with BCeSIS is a bit like giving an engineer an abacus to calculate a moon launch trajectory, then asking if the abacus is functioning properly. I think BCeSIS is functioning as designed. It’s the design that’s flawed.”
Back in 2006, the BCTF urged the ministry not to bring in the high-cost low-performance system, but teachers’ warnings were not heeded. Since then, school districts have been told that if they did not join BCeSIS they would have to develop their own systems, which had to be compatible with BCeSIS. Not surprisingly, all 60 districts have opted in, paying $10 per student per year for access. For example, that means the Vancouver School Board alone spends over $500,000 on user fees annually.
However, the real costs of BCeSIS are much higher when additional computers, staff training, technical support, troubleshooting, lost productivity and wasted time are added into the equation. “This is yet another example of misguided, top-down management by this Ministry of Education,” Lambert said. “These costs should be borne by the province, not downloaded onto school districts and teachers.”