Costs for data system loathed by many teachers add up to $10M
System maligned by many is 'causing a lot of stress on teachers,' says union president
A school information system that is a source of frustration for many Nova Scotia public school teachers has cost more than $9.4 million since it was acquired by the province seven years ago.
PowerSchool, along with Tienet, an add-on to the program that acts as a kind of digital personal file related to programming and supports, cost more than $6 million to implement from 2009-10 to 2012-13.
CBC News received the numbers in response to an access to information request; they do not include staff costs at the Education Department or school board level.
Annual maintenance and support charges for the program have ranged from a low of $206,389.25 in 2010-11 to a high of $819,360.73 for 2015-16. The bill for 2016-17 has not yet been paid, but is expected to be more than $800,000.
Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Liette Doucet believes that's a lot of money to spend on a program most teachers think is deeply flawed.
"I find it incredible that our classrooms are not being provided with the resources that are required and that teachers are spending hundreds of dollars out of their pockets every year to provide the materials that they need to cover the outcomes, and that this amount of money is being spent on programs that are causing teachers to have to spend more time away from their students," she said.
Teachers union members were voting on a new contract offer on Thursday that includes language that could see reviews of and changes to PowerSchool.
The growing amount of data entry has been an ongoing concern for teachers and one voiced often during the ongoing contract dispute between the union and provincial government.
Mounting stress and pressure
Teachers are required to enter every assignment and assessment issued and grades into the system, which Doucet said is too time consuming. And because the program works in real time, parents are often monitoring, waiting for information and calling when it isn't there when they expect it, she said.
"It's causing a lot of stress on teachers over and above inputting the data," she said. "Parents are calling to question [marks] before teachers have even had a chance to speak to students about them in some cases."
Doucet said the ability to have a digital file for each student, which allows it to be easily transferred when necessary, is a good thing. But there are enough challenges that the entire system needs to be reviewed, she said.
CBC News has requested an interview from the Department of Education and is still waiting for a response.