Ontario's standard report cards delayed by glitch (computer problems0

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November 11, 1999

Ontario's standard report cards delayed by glitch

TORONTO (CP) -- Parents may be disappointed in the Ontario government's highly touted new standardized report cards for Grade 9 students. But the problem might not lie with their children's marks. Wonky computer software is so full of glitches, some school boards may not be able to produce the report card in time for mid-term at all. Other boards are resorting to sending students from teacher to teacher to have grades entered by hand. Still others have lost key student records, as the software sends school computers crashing. "It's not working anywhere," says Earl Manners, head of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, that represents the province's high school teachers. "Some school boards have abandoned the provincial card for Grade 9 students because it crashed and took down the rest of the system. We've heard indications that students are having to walk around with the report card and teachers are entering the marks by hand." The Conservatives announced the new report card with great fanfare in March, saying a single, uniform report would allow parents across the province to compare their children's progress to those in other jurisdictions. But, with the mid-term prototype due to arrive in homes across Ontario in the next two weeks, Manners says the report card has produced nothing but headaches for the teachers and boards expected to produce it. "This was supposed to make things easier, but it's a lot more difficult than it ever was," Manners says. "Like the curriculum, here's another example of a good idea, with no attention paid to implementation." The Ottawa-Carleton board, one of the largest in Ontario, didn't receive the necessary computer software until Oct. 15, just 10 days before the year's first reports were due. Because of glitches in using the computer program, the board has been forced to abandon the new report, instead issuing the old one the province complained was not easy enough for parents to understand. The Peel board, west of Toronto, couldn't download class lists, making it impossible to include information about a student's attendance on the reports, as now required by the province. In Prince Edward-Hastings, teachers entered marks and comments into the computers, but because of improper training on the program, a board official inadvertently deleted an entire school's Grade 9 report. Manners says part of the problem is that the province contracted private firms to devise the computer programs used to produce the reports. But Rob Savage, an aide to Education Minister Janet Ecker, said Thursday when the government doled out $2 million to boards for the software, the choice of who got the contract was entirely within the board's discretion. "We provided boards with money for training and to purchase software," Savage said. "We never specified which software to use." The ministry intends to discuss the glitches with boards in the coming week, in an effort to sort out the problem in enough time for the arrival of report cards later this month.

-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), November 12, 1999

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