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Months after launching ARIS audit, comptroller surveys its users

Three months after announcing that he would take a taxpayer’s suggestion and audit the Department of Education’s online data system, Comptroller John Liu is asking the system’s most frequent users for feedback.

Liu announced in March that he would audit the Achievement Reporting and Innovation System, the department’s data warehouse known as ARIS, which has attracted no shortage of critics for its $81 million price tag and early glitches. In June, Liu’s office distributed a satisfaction survey to some ARIS users, including teachers.

“As part of the audit, we are evaluating whether the system meets users’ needs,” read an email containing the survey sent June 14 by Vince Liquori, director of financial audit in the comptroller’s office. A high school teacher who received the survey sent it to GothamSchools after the deadline to complete it, June 24, had passed.

The 21-question survey asks respondents for details about how they use ARIS and whether they think they system is helping them boost student achievement. The survey also includes a free-response section for respondents to list what they like and dislike about the system and identify which of its features they would change.

The survey comes as ARIS continues to contend against lower-budget competitors for teachers’ attention. The 77-school-strong New Visions network of schools has started to use DataCation, one of several educator-generated systems designed to make up for ARIS’s shortcomings. DataCation built a tool for New Visions schools based on the network’s early-warning system for college readiness, according to the first of four reports evaluating the system.

Susan Fairchild, New Visions’ director of data analysis and applied research, said New Visions chose to put the college readiness data on Datacation because the system is “a little more bottom-up” and “quickly responsive.”

“Our mandate is to serve our schools as quickly as we can,” she said. Using the DOE’s data tools, she said, school staff “said by the time they got the data they were stale.”

But Fairchild said ARIS can be useful, too. “Schools that are able to use both of the systems together are doing themselves a big favor,” she said.

The comptroller’s office declined to comment on its survey because the investigation into ARIS remains open. The complete survey is below.

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