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New Visions warns principals not to trust ARIS data warehouse

One of the city’s 11 school support organizations is warning principals not to trust information they find in the $80 million data warehouse the Department of Education re-launched this year.

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein promised that the system, called ARIS, would revolutionize the way teachers and principals do their jobs, by giving them a one-stop source of information on everything from a student’s attendance record to his test score history.

But a newsletter sent to principals last week by New Visions for Public Schools, an outside contractor that works with 75 city schools, describes ARIS as inaccurate. “Please do not rely on the accuracy of the data in ARIS,” it says. (Read the full newsletter, a Word document, here.) The warning follows a cacophony of problems that met ARIS’s first launch last school year.

A Department of Education spokesman, Andrew Jacob, said the memo is right to say that some data are still missing from ARIS, but wrong to challenge the available data’s accuracy. One data point that hasn’t been imported yet is whether or not a student needs special education services, a status that is indicated by whether she has an Individualized Educational Plan or IEP, he said. Attendance data was only added two days ago, and IEP information should come “in the next week or two,” Jacob said.

But Jacob said that the rest of the memo is “wrong”:

The data in ARIS is accurate. We do extensive verification on each data set before we add it. And ARIS makes it easy for teachers and administrators to send us any questions or concerns they have about the data they see.

Still, what I hear is that principals are having real difficulties squaring the ARIS figures with what they know about students (and teachers too). It’s hard to imagine why New Visions, which often acts as an ally to the Bloomberg administration, would make this up.