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Bug Means High School Students' Schedule Errors May Last Days 443

Posted by timothy
from the ok-computer-meeting-people-is-easy dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Post reports that thousands of high school students in Prince George's County missed a third day of classes Wednesday, and school officials said it could take more than a week to sort out the chaos caused by a computerized class-scheduling system as students were placed in gyms, auditoriums, cafeterias, libraries and classes they didn't want or need at high schools across the county and their parents' fury over the logistical nightmare rose. 'The school year comes up the same time every year,' said Carolyn Oliver, the mother of a 16-year-old senior who spent Wednesday in the senior lounge at Bowie High School. 'When I heard they didn't have schedules, I was like, "What have they been doing all summer?"' When school opened Monday, about 8,000 high school students had no class schedules and were sent to wait in holding spaces while administrators tried to sort things out." (More below.)
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Bug Means High School Students' Schedule Errors May Last Days

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  • by tacarat (696339) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:57PM (#29223767) Journal
    One must know which classes to ditch.
  • by RingDev (879105) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:00PM (#29223807) Homepage Journal

    I remember talking to the admin at one of the colleges I attended. We asked them how they did their scheduling. The rumor was that the Dean would lock himself in a hotel room with a map of the school, the student list, the course catalog, and the teacher list, and 3 bottles of whiskey for a long weekend.

    After which, he would take a weeks vacation while everyone marveled over the new schedules.

    -Rick

    • by tuxedobob (582913) <tuxedobob AT mac DOT com> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:27PM (#29224131)

      One of my projects for a comp sci class in college was a scheduling system, of sorts. It was done from the student's point of view, though. I'd set it up by importing data from a CSV done in Excel, and it would know which lab sections belonged with which lecture sections of a course. It allowed you to specify preferred class times and teachers from what was available. You would enter in what required courses you needed to take, and additionally enter in several optional courses, only one of which you could take, and it would give you a list of all possible schedules, sorted from most desirable to least.

      The schedule creation was done in a PHP script which is about 6KB in size, and the whole thing is about 140KB, csv not included.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by xaxa (988988)

        I think my university computing department had (has?) a Prolog script to do the scheduling, but I don't know if it was seriously used or not.

        I assume you gave it some inputs (room sizes, class sizes, lectures required, etc) and then spent a week trying to work out why it wasn't giving the right result. But maybe that's just my Prolog :-D

      • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:22PM (#29224789)

        A pair of entrepreneurs were giving a talk at my university about their successes and failures in the start-up phase of their company.

        They had been spending about 18 months straight building a class scheduling program, and had gotten it to work, but they felt their four day run time was way too long to market, and couldn't figure out how to improve the speed and were about to give up. They were using an old version of the university's students, teachers, student's course wishes and rooms.

        At a party at the university one of them was talking to someone from the school's administration and after a couple of drinks they got to talking about the work he was doing, and he mentioned the 36 hour run time, which made the administration guy look quite surprised, as they were used to having a two week run time on their current system, which they were happy with, as it was one of the fastest on the market.

        Now, this anecdote was somewhat old at the time, but his point was "a product may seem worthless to you as an outsider of the industry, but that doesn't mean it isn't better than what's available". My point is that these type of scheduling takes a long time to complete

        • by ShakaUVM (157947) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @08:51PM (#29225643) Homepage Journal

          If you have six classes of Math students, then you need six Math classes and you need to find the teachers for them. If a teacher dies/whatever, you still have six classes of Math students. Yes, the administration may have to scramble to find a replacement teacher, but that doesn't affect the scheduling of classes: substitute new Math teacher in place of dead Math teacher.
          >>My point is that these type of scheduling takes a long time to complete

          The problem is a lot harder than most people think.

          The issue isn't 180 kids wanting to take math. It's 180 kids that are taking wildly different class loads, but are all at the same level of math, and so need to be grouped together somehow into 6 classes, assigned only to teachers which are qualified to teach that class, but not teaching another class during the same time period.

          If we ran our schools Japanese-style, with everyone taking the same classes together, the solution is simple: rotate your teachers through each of the classes - the kids stay in one class, but the teachers circulate.

          But our college entrance requirements are so strict now, optional classes are now absolute constraints on the problem. Student A MUST have Precalculus, Sophomore English, American History, Science 3-4, and French 3-4, and wants to take Journalism 3-4 during period 4 during 2/3rds of the year and Volleyball during period 6 at the end of the year. Whereas student B needs chemistry, Sophomore English, French 3-4 (which only has enough students for one class, so they must all be scheduled together), AP US History, etc. This is combined with constraints put on the system by individual teachers (teacher C is a teacher on special assignment, and so can only work periods 1-3, teacher D is our only journalism teacher, and can only teach the newspaper class in Period 4).

          If I recall correctly, the scheduling problem (or at least some variants of it) is NP-complete.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by mrsquid0 (1335303)

            >If I recall correctly, the scheduling problem (or at least some
            >variants of it) is NP-complete.

            Phew. That means that there is no hope of it accidentally summoning Yog Sothoth.

          • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:33PM (#29225981)

            *beats the slashcode designer to a pulp and thanks the Opera designers for making sure that it remembers the contents of forms when you go back in its history*

            It gets more complex as well. For instance, you may have:
            * 3 chemistry labs,
            * 6 levels of chemistry that requires labwork,
            * 400 students
            * five teachers capable of teaching different levels of the subject (i.e. <=2, <=2, <=3, <=4, <=6).

            And when those teachers also teach 3 other subjects (with no overlaps), the students have an average of 5 other subjects as well, only 20% of the chemistry students share 2 courses, 60% share 3 courses, 15% share 4 courses and the remaining 5% do not share any courses, you might start to get an idea of the problem.

            I wouldn't be particularly surprised if you could run the schedule routine thousands of times and not get the same result, making it a sort of Monte Carlo [wikipedia.org] algorithm.

  • Big deal (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) * on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:03PM (#29223857) Journal

    High school is a waste of time anyway, and the first week of HS especially so. They weren't going to be learning anything anyway.

    • You don't have kids, do you? ;)

      Really, it depends on the school. My daughter's in a PG County magnet program and she's learning a hell of a lot -- if I have any worries about the program, it's that they may be working her too hard, and believe me, I have pretty high standards for what that means.

    • For a lot of kids it may very well be a waste of time. The smarter kids would likely do better just taking college courses as the credit is useful for getting into a career they like later. For everyone else the major draw of high school isn't so much learning more as it is socializing with other teens.

      • Re:Big deal (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CannonballHead (842625) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:31PM (#29224173)

        the major draw of high school isn't so much learning more as it is socializing with other teens.

        Yup. Gotta love socializing with teens. It does wonders for your maturity when you have to interact with adults...

        Incidentally (previous paragraph was sarcastic, btw), I was homeschooled. It's interesting to me that "no social life!!!!11" was one of the major "what, you were homeschooled?" reactions when I went to a junior college for two years. It would appear that "learning" takes second place to "fun" and "social life." Apparently, education is secondary to teenage social skills when it comes to business after college.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by wizardforce (1005805)

          I know your post was satire I just fond it to be a convenient time to voice my own opinion.

          Yup. Gotta love socializing with teens. It does wonders for your maturity when you have to interact with adults...

          I never said it was a good thing, just that it is generally an appealing concept to most teens. For me high school was a waste. I was never that much into socializing with my own age group so that aspect of high school did nothing for me. As for actually learning things worth mentioning, that only rea

  • by eln (21727) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:04PM (#29223863) Homepage
    I understand that there might be some concern with unleashing all these teenagers on the unsuspecting public, but after all they have been home all summer, so making them stay there for another couple of days while they get all this sorted out doesn't seem like that big of a deal. Nothing good can come of packing a bunch of teenagers into one room with nothing to do (and especially no air conditioning!). At the high school I went to, there would have been at least 2 fights on the first day of such an arrangement, and it would have gone downhill from there.

    Oh yeah, and don't most schools have their administrators, and usually the teachers, report in at least a week before school starts? Wouldn't that have been a perfect time to conduct audits and make sure everything was ready for the students to arrive?
    • by yincrash (854885)
      If they send the students home, that probably means that they need to have extra school days at the end of the year, or cut into holidays.
      • by eln (21727)
        Which is what ought to happen, since the kids are being deprived of instruction days in any case. They still will not have the number of required days in their assigned classes if they're sitting in a gymnasium rather than sitting in the classroom.
        • by CannonballHead (842625) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:11PM (#29223953)

          Deprived of instruction or deprived of instruction days? It seems to me that we're more concerned with "days" than "instruction."

          • by maxume (22995) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:22PM (#29224063)

            Even worse, we are more concerned with 'instruction' than 'learning'.

          • by DarkOx (621550)

            Somewhere long about middle school for me the school year started getting longer and longer. Guess what with a few rare exceptions teachers don't know how to use the extra time effectively. They either slow down everything, which is good for some students I guess, and bore everyone else to half to death or they sprinkle in the occasional movie day.

            Get a clue the school year was much to long when I was in school and I have been out for quite some time. What would be useful is if our society was more open

          • by apoc.famine (621563) <apoc.famine@gmaiCOLAl.com minus caffeine> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @08:27PM (#29225439) Homepage Journal

            "Instruction" isn't in the teacher contract. (I should know - I signed 5 of them before I wised up.) The wording is "student contact days" and "student contact periods".
             
            My school ran into the same thing with snow days. If we had 2/3 of the students in school for more than a half-day, it counted as a "school day", according to the state and the district. If the weather was bad, send the kids to school. If it gets worse, we send them home at noon, and it doesn't count as a snow day, and we don't have to go a day later into the summer.
             
            School is NOT about "instruction". If you think that, you're sorely misled. School is about a few major things:
             
            1) Basic workplace skills. Reading, writing, addition and subtraction, showing up on time, dealing with your boss.
            2) Babysitting for parents who at are work.
            3) Learning to deal with people.
            4) Learning to take tests. (This is the big one!)
             
            One of the things that struck me most, going back into a high school after being out for almost a decade, was that the kids were TOTALLY unable to think. In fact, I went out and a had a few drinks with a woman who was student-teaching in my building. She was working on both a HS and Elementary certification, so was student teaching in both schools. She was told by an Elementary school math teacher that her test was inappropriate, because "The kids aren't used to that. They are used to being told stuff, and the test sees whether or not they remember it. They aren't used to having to think about it and use it." I would have called BS on that, but she had a few drinks in her and was shaking with rage as she recounted that, so I took it as near the truth.
             
            Einstein once said, ""The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education." If it was true then, it's definitely true now.

            • by twostix (1277166) on Friday August 28, 2009 @12:17AM (#29226913)

              I've heard it mentioned dozens of times before over the last 6 or so years on the Internet but always ignored it as conspiracy rantings. I finally took the time to read John Taylor Gattos "Underground History of American Education" and when I was done walked around in a dazed stupor for a few weeks at the scope of the education "system" and the people and utopian (distopian?) ideals that have gone into building it over the last 100 years.

              http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/index.htm [johntaylorgatto.com]

              I dare anyone with a child to read it and not feel sick with the new understanding history and ideals behind the system that they're sending their kids into that that book brings.

              A choice quote from the first mission statement of Rockefeller's General Education Board one of the biggest movers in the creation of mass government schooling:

              "In our dreams...people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present educational conventions [intellectual and character education] fade from our minds, and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of science. We have not to raise up from among them authors, educators, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have ample supply. The task we set before ourselves is very simple...we will organize children...and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way."

              W.T.F

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Gryle (933382)
              I think Paul Simon phrased it better: "When I think back on all the crap I learned in high-school, it's a wonder I can think at all."*

              *Paul Simon, Kodachrome
    • by dltaylor (7510)

      Federal funding is based on attendance, not instruction. In CA the state does the same thing. Dunno about Maryland.

    • by mctk (840035) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:34PM (#29224219) Homepage

      Wouldn't that have been a perfect time to conduct audits and make sure everything was ready for the students to arrive?

      I'm guessing you haven't worked in a public school? Two years ago I got my classroom assignment 3 days before students showed up. My co-worker had 1 day. Instead of curriculum planning, we spent the time running around the halls trying to find desks for students, the teacher's manuals for our books, get appropriate keys, etc.

      Oh, and we also had a part time counselor in charge of 300+ students' schedules at our school and another 300+ at our neighbor school. A student shows up who hasn't registered? The secretary will put her in some temporary classes until a week later when the counselor can actually review her transcript and place her accordingly.

      No one is sitting around that week. There's a thousand jobs that need to be done, but the districts keep cutting support staff and putting it on the shoulders of teachers and counselors. I wouldn't be quick to blame anyone in that school building.

      • by eln (21727) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:42PM (#29224315) Homepage
        I didn't mean to imply the teachers are to blame, although I can see how my post could have been interpreted that way. The administrators should be the ones primarily responsible for auditing the schedules, not the teachers. And believe me, I sympathize with the fact that school personnel are constantly asked to do more with fewer resources. That's the big reason I elected not to go into teaching. My mother and older brother are both teachers, and I just don't want to deal with the aggravation they have to deal with on a daily basis.
    • by Eil (82413) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:41PM (#29224981) Homepage Journal

      I understand that there might be some concern with unleashing all these teenagers on the unsuspecting public

      1. A LOT of parents treat school like a babysitting service and couldn't stand the thought of their precious little snowflake sitting around at home unsupervised. Something tells me there would be more than a few angry parents (and probably some lawsuits, unfortunately) if the students were sent back home without advance notice.

      2. A LOT of public school administrators treat school like a prison and would much rather see thousands of students sitting around all day on a gymnasium floor than release them back to their comfortable homes while the administrators slaved away at fixing the scheduling problems. Also, sending them home would be like admitting there was a real mistake whereas making the students sit around idle is just a temporary setback.

      I swear to FSM, my daughter will never see the inside walls of a public school.

      • by twostix (1277166) on Friday August 28, 2009 @12:38AM (#29227013)

        My step son does (goes to public school) he's eight years old in third grade and goes to school to play fun exciting games and get stickers for writing one broken sentence and then comes home in the afternoon to learn.

        His mother and I have butted head *numerous* times with his teacher, counselors (counselors in primary school...why?) and principle a few times about the fact that he and half is class are functionally illiterate and the school doesn't seem to be in the least bit concerned about it. This is after we pulled him out of another public school because of the same problem. That is no interest in teaching children to read, write and do maths. It's *all* "social" and not even what I would call "social" as some of the things they learn are decidedly anti-social.

        Apparently social skills and self-esteem building are more important than the fact that he can't read books that me and his mother could read in first grade. We do our best with him but given that we only have him for two hours a night and are already considered "overly strict" and "pressure" parents by his school for trying to teach him ourselves (reading, writing and maths) for a few hours on afternoons and weekends there's not much else we can do as long as he's in that system.

        He'll be out of the public system at the end of this year though. After spending his summer holidays with a tutor he'll be going straight into a private school to repeat the third grade.

        So I'm with you my own children (18 months and six months) will *never ever* see the inside walls of a public school building. As it is I'm already responsible for one damaged child because of the mistake of trusting the state school system.

        I weep for this generation of public school children - the first in some larger untested social experiment.

        • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Friday August 28, 2009 @02:43AM (#29227673) Homepage

          Dude, seriously. I feel your pain - as one of those kids who jumped from school to school because they were too dumb and I was bored. My parents were quite worried that I had not really started reading (I could read, just didn't) until 3rd grade.

          I was in a total of 9 school districts (3 private schools inclusive) throughout K-12 - and I was homeschooled for the majority of middle school years (6th through 9th grades). This isn't in one region, it's in half a dozen different towns in 3 different states 500+ miles from each other.

          Take the kid out of school and "home school" him. If you have to, give him books and lock him in a room and tell him to "entertain himself". He will still learn more, because his mind will be engaged (if, for no other reason, because he's got nothing else to do).

          If you have to, ferret him into work in a 4U server box and stick him in the corner - then ask him what he learned "at school" on the car trip home. Chances are, he'll learn more in a day which will stick with him than he does in a whole week of school.

          I say those things somewhat tongue in cheek, but seriously: there are very few good schools out there, regardless of money or location, public or private. If your kids are even moderately intelligent/above average (as I am - not uber-intelligent but certainly brighter than average, no small part due to my upbringing) they will be bored and unchallenged.

          Like you, my children will not see the inside of a public school building (and, most likely, not the inside of a private one, either). I will "shoot it out" with CPS/whatever agents before they're sent away like that. I love them too much.

          My son is currently 5; due to new early-start laws, we've got to register him for school already. They (the federal government) is trying to take our kids from us at an earlier and earlier age. I went to kindergarten in NY at the age of 7; I was a year oler than most of my classmates due to when my birthday fell in the year, but at the same time, it was required at 6. Now it's 5. When my mom was a kid (at the same kindergarten), kindergarten was not even required.

          As far as education of children at home: as I said, my son is 5. I have made no 'concerted' effort in teaching him anything except what he is interested in. If he asks a question, I guide him in finding the answer for himself or I answer it. He knows the alphabet, can almost count (and write) to 20 (and after you're past the "teens", it's easy-peezy), and knows more about the natural world than most high schoolers. He plays with legos, draw, and plays with his sister for most of the day.

          Most importantly, though: he is using his brain, and he is not behind his peers by any stretch of the imagination. He is interacting with adults (I work from home, as does my wife) on a daily basis, is learning proper adult etiquette, and is one step closer (than he was and than others his age) to becoming half of what childhood is about: an adult.

          The other half is about playing and having fun. And even that "fun" stuff has lessons for adulthood: skinning your knee, falling from a tree, or getting sprayed by a skunk all have life lessons you are likely to not forget.

          (Sorry for the rambling nature; Friday started a day early for me this week.)

  • by mpapet (761907) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:06PM (#29223901) Homepage

    Well, let's see.... At the top of the list is not working because they aren't paid over the summer.

    This is a particularly annoying version of complaining about inferior service when, in fact, you are the one who funds that service.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:46PM (#29224349) Journal
      In fact, while public school teachers are typically not paid during the summer(whether this counts as "vacation" or "unemployment" depends on how much they are paid the rest of the year and/or who they've married); but it is pretty common to have at least a subset of admin and support staff on site year round. Some of it is just salary padding fluff, I'm sure; but there is a lot of real work to do at a school over the summer.

      Schedules get made up(well, usually), buildings get cleaned and repaired, IT projects that would be too disruptive for the year(or take too much of the IT staff's time when they also have to deal with user support) get done, pallets of textbooks, paper, lightbulbs, etc. get moved about.

      I'm not too surprised by this story, really. You see errors at least as flagrant in much higher profile corporate and government projects, so it isn't like IT deployments crashing and burning is all that uncommon, even among people with deep pockets who should know better. In a school, you've probably got a more or less bare bones staff of IT, who spend most of their time doing basic support, working with some horribly crufty abomidation from a vendor who deserves to die for their programming sins; but also has years of experience building software that caters to the specific needs of school systems(Sure, anybody, right down to that 15 year old who just discovered LAMP and sourceforge, could build a better frontend, and better DB backends are given away in the backs of "learn linux for morons in 10 minutes" books; but software that promises to automatically send out report card notifications to parents in a manner that correctly navigates the laws for information disclosure/nondisclosure when you have one or more divorced/separated/custodial/noncustodial/court-appointed-guardian/whatever parents in the picture? Not so common). It's more or less a matter of time before something bad happens.
    • Many teachers ARE paid over the summer. In VA and MD (my sister is a teacher who worked in both states) teachers are given a choice of a 12 month or 10 month pay cycle. The 10 month pay cycle do not get paid over the summer while the 12 month does. Most people take the 12 month cycle so they can plan their bills accordingly. Since the school administrators are in the school over the summer, I would say they are getting paid as well.

      This looks like a case of someone forgot to test something. A full load test

    • You're wrong. I taught for five years, so let me set the record straight:
       
      Most teachers have their salary spread over the entire year. The first two years I taught, I got a check every 2 weeks, whether or not school was in session. The last three years, they dumped a lump-sum into my bank account at the end of June. Still, this doesn't make a lick of difference. The teachers don't make the schedule - that's the duty of the administration, who IS paid all year. Generally, they sign a 220-250 day contract, which means they work through most of the summer.
       
      Once upon a time, when I was a new teacher, we got a new principal and a new head of guidance. They were tasked with scheduling classes for the school over the summer. Because they were new, the district shelled out something like $10k to send them to a 3 day training session put on by the maker of the scheduling software the district had purchased.
       
      They packed their bags, and flew out to the resort where this was happening. They attended the first day of the training, and it was very easy stuff. Stuff they already knew. So they blew the other two days off, and had themselves a nice vacation.
       
      Fast-forward to the end of the summer, and the principal had deleted two weeks of work on the schedule by accident, the classes were all fucked up, and nothing was working. On the first day of school, there were all sorts of issues, and it took a week or two to hammer it all out.
       
      And by "hammer it all out", I mean, "Schedule Calculus and Physics at the same time, so students have to choose. Schedule AP English and AP History at the same time, so students have to choose. Schedule chemistry classes and labs a period apart, so the teacher is forced to break instruction into tiny bits, and rush through minimal labs."
       
      For three years, my school went through a nightmare of scheduling. When they got rid of the horrifically incompetent administrators, it got much better.
       
      How much do you want to bet that the administrators in charge of scheduling this district went on a vacation instead of a training session for the software?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mpapet (761907)

        You're wrong.
        Really? You mean every school district works the same everywhere? Really?

        The rest of your post is good info which goes even further to making my hopelessly lost point, taxpayers don't make education a high priority. Class sizes are huge and most importantly how involved the are the parents? A small minority are involved, but the rest don't make it a high priority for themselves or their children.

        And taxpayers funding the schools? Let's raise their taxes to do a better job educating our kid

  • Prince George's County "Upper Marlboro Schools" is a complete clusterfuck. You should see their purchasing department, they will quote for the city of "Mpper Marlboro" and give the shipping and bill to for a building completely unreleated to the billing or shipping address, and then have it deliver to one of the 500 cities in the district. They never, ever include shipping costs and the shipping address is wrong half the time. Do I have a beef with UMS? Noooo not at all.

    • Prince George's County "Upper Marlboro Schools" is a complete clusterfuck.

      Prince George's County *anything* is a complete clusterfuck. You should see their police. Hope you have medical insurance, and a good lawyer. With the latter, you might actually make a good profit out of the encounter.

    • by Malkin (133793) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:27PM (#29224857)

      Heh, you don't have to tell me. I grew up in Upper Marlboro, and did all my schooling in the PG County School System. Back when I was in middle and high school (in another decade), it was fairly routine for me to have to sort out some kind of heinous scheduling snafu at the beginning of each year. Given that I was out at the edge of the area covered by my high school, bizarre bus schedule errors were almost guaranteed, as well.

      The most spectacular goof-up while I was there was the time they refused to close schools one morning, when a blizzard was rolling in. After freezing to death at the bus stop, waiting for our late bus, we had a grueling trip through white-out conditions to the school. The Beltway looked like some kind of post-apocalyptic nuclear survival horror movie, littered with snow-covered jack-knifed tractor trailers and wrecked cars. By the time we finally reached the school building, we were told that school was canceled. However, we could not simply turn around and go home. Oh no. Instead, the bus was obligated to go back to the first school on its evening routes, to pick them up and take them home, first. We were the last school on the evening routes. So, needless to say, the bus didn't even show up to take us home until stupid-o-clock at night, when we should have been going to bed.

  • by trybywrench (584843) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:07PM (#29223909)
    My wife teaches Journalism at a low income high school in Dallas. A few days before school started she was worried about scheduling and so were her coworkers since an online system they're suppose to be using had no schedules in it. Her first day was met with 60 kids in one of her Journalism class, only 5 had orginially signed up. This is a very poor school ripe with gangs which have to be kept apart but with the scheduling farked all the kids were all mixed together. She was in tears on the phone with me worried that if a fight broke out she wouldn't be able to get out of her room since she has to cross the entire class to get from her desk to the door. Her school won't let her carry a concealed weopen, I want her to carry my pistol but I'm afraid if she gets caught with it there would be criminal charges filed.

    The second day she submitted about 200 schedule changes to the counselors and had managed to get her class size down to 40. Any known bad kids she just told to leave her class, they just leave school and never come back (the first week or so is the worst then the trouble makers just stop showing up).

    Today she showed 1/2 her students a video and tried to teach the other half, I'm guessing she'll do the same tomorrow but switch halves.

    As of right now next Monday is declared a "do over first day of school" and the schedules are promised to be fixed. No one believes it though.
    • This has to be pretty common. A very similar thing happened to me in high school. Some (presumably database-related) error caused a handful of 70-student classes, and I remember sitting with my gargantuan history class out in the student commons as they figured out how to re-parcel out the class rosters.

      The kicker? This was ten years ago. Why is it still happening?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Sponge Bath (413667)

        Why is it still happening?

        Because a significant portion (not all) of the population is unwilling to pay for adequate education. Because a significant portion (not all) of parents are disinterested in what their kids do. Because a significant faction in American politics believes there should be no public education at all and so do everything possible to sabotage it, including packing boards of public education.

        The same thing is going on in public universities. I had a history class at UT Austin with 700+ s

    • Her school won't let her carry a concealed weopen [sic], I want her to carry my pistol but I'm afraid if she gets caught with it there would be criminal charges filed.

      ...because "Teacher Kills Student During Class" is just such a terrific headline.

    • by xaxa (988988)

      This is a very poor school ripe with gangs which have to be kept apart but with the scheduling farked all the kids were all mixed together. She was in tears on the phone with me worried that if a fight broke out she wouldn't be able to get out of her room since she has to cross the entire class to get from her desk to the door.

      That sounds horrible, and I admire anyone who works in a situation like that. Wow, just, wow.

      Can she rearrange the room? I.e. move her desk to the opposite side, and move the kids' chairs to the other side of the tables. I assume the worst kids sit at the back, so this would benefit everyone.

      Her school won't let her carry a concealed weopen, I want her to carry my pistol but I'm afraid if she gets caught with it there would be criminal charges filed.

      Your/her situation is a world away from anything I've ever experienced, but it's not uncommon here for people carrying weapons "just in case" to mess up when they panic and try and use them.

    • by flynt (248848) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:52PM (#29225129)

      This reminds me of where I went to high school. They sent you through a metal detector, and if you didn't have a gun, they gave you one.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:58PM (#29225189)

      Her school won't let her carry a concealed weopen, I want her to carry my pistol but I'm afraid if she gets caught with it there would be criminal charges filed.

      That is some seriously fucked up shit.

      If your wife's life is that valuable to you (and I don't doubt that it is), the solution is not to throw firepower into the mess, it's to get her out of it. I fully support the second amendment but brining a gun into any school, not matter how "low-income," is about the dumbest thing I've ever head.

  • 'When I heard they didn't have schedules, I was like, "What have they been doing all summer?"'

    Enjoying their vacation?

  • This is high school? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by codepigeon (1202896)
    FTA

    My daughter "selected a sewing class because she is interested in fashion design, but the school selected a basic piano class"

    What kind of high school is THIS? We were lucky to have basic computer classes when i was in high school. Sewing and piano? Spoiled bastards.

    • Sewing and piano have been around a while. A lot longer than computer classes. ;)
    • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@@@gmail...com> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:39PM (#29224277) Homepage
      What kind of high school is THIS? We were lucky to have basic computer classes when i was in high school. Sewing and piano? Spoiled bastards.

      My high school had sewing and piano, those classes were held on Thursdays (aka "foie gras and caviar day" at the cafeteria, between yachting class and equestrianism.

      Ha, actually I am a proud product of the New York City public school system, where we counted ourselves lucky if the history books were published late enough to let us know when WW2 ended.
    • by Niris (1443675)
      Bah, we didn't even have computer classes, and I was class of '06. Poor school district FTW. Our options for electives were a PE class, or foreign languages. Learning was only something that happened if you wanted to do stuff at home.
  • Solution (Score:4, Funny)

    by ProteusQ (665382) <dontbother@NosPam.nowhere.com> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:15PM (#29224001) Journal

    Send the programmers and administrators to detention!!

  • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:15PM (#29224007) Homepage

    'When I heard they didn't have schedules, I was like, "What have they been doing all summer?"'

    I suspect the schools don't run the scheduler until a few days before school actually starts - Teachers can die (happened my senior year), quit, not show up for work, classrooms may be unavailable for many reasons, etc... On top of this, they don't actually know how many students are going to show up until registration closes (typically a week before class starts).

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by PerZon (181675)

      So what your saying is if the job is too hard, don't worry about it till the last minute? To me its just another poor example left by the peers of our future. Next they will all go on strike for poor working conditions...

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by DerekLyons (302214)

        No, I'm saying it makes no sense to do a job in June that will have to redone at least once (if not more) in August.

    • Perhaps they should consider this newest of all concepts.... QA
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by johnw (3725)

      I suspect the schools don't run the scheduler until a few days before school actually starts

      Ouch! That would be a recipe for disaster. (OTOH, as they seem to have had a disaster, perhaps you're right.)

      I'm an experienced school timetabler and I can tell you it doesn't (in sane institutions) work like that. The process of producing a school timetable starts in the autumn term of the year before. Producing a decent timetable takes *a lot* of time and concentration, and whilst there are computer programs which can *help*, there just isn't one which will do the whole job for you. Getting everythin

  • by bistromath007 (1253428) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:34PM (#29224227)
    http://xkcd.com/327/ [xkcd.com] That fuckin' kid. :|
  • by sampson7 (536545) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:39PM (#29224267)
    I guess I have this idealistic vision of what should happen here. Conregate the students and ask, "Who's took Algebra last year?" Take the first 20 (okay, 30) student who raise their hand, lead them to math class. "Who's in 9th Grade and hasn't had English yet?" Lead another group away. "Who took chemistry....? Biology...?" I know, it would never be that easy, but I still have some idealistic vision that a group of adults could really teach something; after all, the teachers are just as much victims of this as the students.

    Also, keep in mind, this is Prince George's County -- a jurisdiction that in the 1970s capped property taxes at then-existing levels, and allowed only minimal increases since. Combine that with a high population of at-risk students, large pockets of poverty, serious struggles with drugs and crime in the community -- and you have a recipe for disaster. At some level, the people of Prince George's County get the educational system they pay for. And they are cheap, so the fact that they don't have the computer resources that they need is entirely par for the course (sadly).
    • That method you propose is pretty efficient. I would extend it to take names of students leftover and then they could get into trouble for trying to avoid classes.

      This is what happens when we adopt and embrace technology as a method to solve all our problems. Computers are nothing without the right people to maintain them. (They're sociotechnical systems, you cannot have one without the other)

      I do wonder how complex a scheduling system is: does anyone have any experience in writing this kind of software? Is

  • Words by John Taylor Gatto, 1991 New York State Teacher of the Year:

    http://www.newciv.org/whole/schoolteacher.txt [newciv.org]
    "The second lesson I teach is your class position. I teach that you must stay in class where you belong. I don't know who decides that my kids belong there but that's not my business. The children are numbered so that if any get away they can be returned to the right class. Over the years the variety of ways children are numbered has
    increased dramatically, until it is hard to see the human be

  • by buss_error (142273) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @08:14PM (#29225319) Homepage Journal

    And I'm here to tell you, it's downright scary what idiots and idiot programming is foisted on to K-12. While we've never reviewed the SchoolMax software, most of the software I see is "enterprise unaware": EG: no common credential store, little or no real testing, glaring flaws, and most have no concept of interoperability.

    My favorite vendor excuse is "It's your network", followed by "No, you can't virtulize this, it has to run on it's own hardware and it can't have other services running." I laugh because our network outperforms most major ISVs (I used to work at one as a second job), and as far as virtulizaion, I've asked venors "why not?" and the answer is never technical, it's always "because we don't support it". 9 times out of ten, the support driods working on something never twig to the fact that their application is running just fine on a virt serv and has been for YEARS. But clue them in, and INSTANTLY the problem is the virtulization, not a bug.

    The other thing that makes me laugh is that when you ask how much a license is, it's never "how many CPUs?" or "How many boxes", it's always per student, even if it would only be used by a single classroom, they want to license it for the entire student population.

    In over 15 years of working K-12, I can count on one finger the number of vendors that I didn't think were complete idiots, fools, and/or scammers.

As far as we know, our computer has never had an undetected error. -- Weisert

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