After hearing a report from Chris Campbell, technology director for the state Department of Education, on changes to Idaho’s K-12 longitudinal data system, known as ISEE, lawmakers on the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee today had high praise. “No questions, just thank you, thank you, thank you,” Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, told Campbell. Batt said she’s heard complaints from local school officials about the system from when she first joined the Legislature. “You listened, and that just meant the world to them,” she said. “And you went in and actually implemented changes. I can’t thank you enough.”
Office of Performance Evaluation analyst Lance McCleve echoed Batt’s praise. “I don’t think any (school) district we’ve talked to dared to wish for as much as has been changed and delivered,” he said. “It’s in line with the intent of what we had. … Seeing action taken and some things completely dealt with, it’s very surprising and it’s wonderful.” JLOC voted to follow up again in a year.
Campbell detailed how the state Department of Education initiated a comprehensive review of ISEE with the goal of reducing the burden on districts and minimizing the size and frequency of data collection to the minimum necessary; it included extensive stakeholder input, an item-by-item evaluation of each data element in the system, and justification and documentation for any that continued. Some of the data points were never used, he reported; others were duplicative or collected too frequently. The refined system now has significantly fewer data elements, and requires half as many uploads from districts a year, along with other changes.
Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, co-chair of JLOC, said, “This is really good. But it also gets to the fact that this wasn’t necessarily contracting or purchasing, but issue identification, project scoping and project management issues as well. I think that’s important to recognize. It’s more than just the purchasing that we have to watch out for.”
He said today’s JLOC agenda shows progress in a number of areas, from attention to state employee compensation issues, on which a joint Change in Employee Compensation Committee has now resumed meeting each legislative session, to a legislative interim committee rewriting the state’s purchasing laws. “A lot of times we have findings that just flop, nothing is done about it,” Rusche said. “I feel good that the projects that we have taken on have led to some improvements.”