Los Angeles Unified School District officials have slowly begun to revive an online parent portal for tracking students' daily attendance, test scores, class schedules and graduation progress.
The parent portal, called "LAUSD PASSport,” went live two years ago. But that initial rollout was accompanied the disastrous debut of the district's data system MiSiS, which provides the technical support that the portal needs to work.
Now that L.A. Unified officials say the MiSiS system has been excised of its most crippling problems, they’ve taken the parent portal back off of the shelf. In the last six weeks, the number of registered users on the site has increased from 3,000 to around 9,900 according to Rowena Lagrosa, head of Parent, Community and Student Services for L.A. Unified.
Lagrosa is careful to term PASSport’s reintroduction a “soft launch,” saying many school staff and parents still need training on how to use and troubleshoot the site. District officials also want to be certain “all of the data sources are accurate, are there, and it's up and running well,” Lagrosa said.
“I’ve always felt that my first interaction with anything will leave a lasting impression with me, so we’ve wanted to wait until we could be assured that this first impression and this first experience with PASSport will be a positive one,” she added, saying, “We feel that right now is the time to test the system.”
It will be a test for the underlying MiSiS system, too. District officials say they’ve fixed many of the problems that prevented high school students from receiving class schedules or staff members from entering enrollment or attendance records back in 2014.
The question some observers are asking now is whether district-contracted programmers will be able to build enough of the functionality into MiSiS to justify its soaring price tag, which will likely top $200 million by 2018 — this, for a project with an initial budget of just under $30 million.
"We are certainly spending more of our time on enhancements than we do fixing bugs,” said Diane Pappas, the L.A. Unified official leading the MiSiS recovery effort. "That is a huge distinction and shows tremendous progress we’ve made toward fixing the system...but there’s just a lot of work that needs to be done toward making it the completely fully functional system that our schools are expecting us to deliver to them.”
For the "soft launch" of PASSport, officials say they'll place special focus on registering parents at 54 schools where teachers are piloting a new MiSiS feature: an online gradebook where teachers can enter not only final course marks, but scores for daily assignments and quizzes as well. (Many teachers use outside software for this purpose.)
But any L.A. Unified parent can register for PASSport this year, so long as they have their student’s ID number and enter the parent email address their school has on file.
Once registered, parents can view a student’s vaccination records, suspension history, semester grades and, if the student is an English learner, track his or her progress toward proficiency. Parents of high schoolers can access a new page in the portal graphing a student’s progress toward completing the A-G graduation requirements.
“I’m not super tech-savvy, and I was able to log on and access everything,” said Monica Young, an attorney and parent of two seventh graders at Millikan Middle School. Young first got access to PASSport in May.
Young found the inclusion of records on students’ absences and tardies helpful: “We don’t have to call the office and say, ‘Why didn’t I get a phone call saying my student was absent on this day?’ I can go onto the screen and see exactly what [the school’s] records are, too."
From Young’s login screen, it’s also clear some parts of the parent portal are still under construction. One page promises “additional functionality” that will allow parent of special education students to view their child’s Individualized Education Plan in the “near future."