This week in District Deeds Sunday Reads we are going to apply a concept we mentioned during our “Summer Reads” postings over the last 2 1/2 months.

Get to the point!

The featured article from Cal Matters by reporter Joe Hong allows us to do that.

We call it “follow the data” which eventually, in the byzantine financial reporting and accountability structure of the California Department of Education (CDE) and the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), leads to the common adage “follow the money”.

We have featured the complete Cal Matters article today in Sunday Reads with our synopsis and analysis.  We strongly urge our readers to click on the title and other links (in red) to read the full article for themselves

Problems Plague California School District Data System, Putting Funding at Risk

The data management system for California’s K-12 schools has been on the fritz for months after it was updated in April then rolled out with minimal testing, potentially jeopardizing school district funding.

The California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, or CALPADS, stores information for the state’s 6 million public school students. It’s how the state knows how many students have learning disabilities, are experiencing homelessness or qualify as English learners. The California Department of Education uses this demographic data to calculate how much funding will go to the state’s more than 1,000 school districts. Districts with more high-needs students get more money based on that data.

While one department official said nearly all the state’s schools will still get their full funding, the recent malfunctions have alarmed some district officials.

Earlier this year, the state’s new software update generated reams of inaccurate data about students with disabilities, disrupting standardized testing. Leading up to the new school year, districts that usually might have a few dozen initial errors were seeing thousands when their data specialists uploaded student data into the statewide system. The errors included wrong enrollment numbers, duplicate student information and missing information about accommodations for students with disabilities. Administrators feared they would lose funding due to these inaccuracies.

“Some districts felt at the time they were going to lose funding because of no fault of their own,”said Jeremy Davis, the assistant superintendent of innovation & instructional support at the Fullerton School District. “And it wasn’t being clarified by the CDE.”

Michael Fine is the chief executive officer of the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, or FCMAT, a state agency that helps maintain the statewide data system. He said the rollout of the upgrade was “less than satisfactory and did not follow the expectations of the field or FCMAT.”

“Simply put, my opinion is that long-standing protocols and best practices around system revisions and implementation were not followed with fidelity,” Fine wrote in an email to CalMatters. He added that the education department chose to “streamline these processes” and take a “minimalist” approach to testing, which may have further complicated the rollout of an already complex system.

Fine added that not only did the upgraded data system launch with minimal testing,  the department could have provided “greater transparency and more information”   to districts.

The system upgrade, which both Fine and Davis said was much needed, compromised standardized testing at schools across the state.

For the last several months, Davis said data specialists at California’s school districts have been frustrated by the bugs in the system. At the Fullerton School District, he said his data team members were seeing up to 10,000 errors when they uploaded information, where they would only see about a dozen in previous years. While the California Department of Education did warn districts they would see more errors, Davis said this amount was shocking. Some districts had hundreds of thousands of errors before the department of education started fixing the issues.

“We just really want to make sure CALPADS is shored up,” said Davis, who is also the president of California IT In Education, a nonprofit professional organization for technology workers in education. “We want CALPADS to have tons of funding. We want to lobby for them.”

Malia Vella, a deputy superintendent at the California Department of Education, said about 98% of districts should be able to get all their data certified and secure their funding by the Sept. 16 deadline. Vella said the department is working with districts to address the errors and that California allows districts more time than other states to submit their data.

While Davis said he can’t comment on the accuracy of the state’s prediction, his own team of three data specialists at Fullerton school district  will be able to meet the Sept. 16 deadline for districts to submit their data to the state. But he said even though his team and those at other districts are submitting correct data, the statewide system is still experiencing errors like miscounting the number of students with disabilities, which could have repercussions for standardized testing.

“If students didn’t get tested because of the glitches in the system… That’s a piece of data that helps us inform our instruction,” Davis said. “If less kids are tested, there’s a concern there.”

The stakes for reliable data are higher than ever. The state needs to have a clear picture of student enrollment and achievement so it can allocate the necessary resources to help them recover academically, socially and emotionally from the pandemic’s impact.

The information in the statewide system is the basis of accountability platforms like the California School Dashboard, which shows the public everything from enrollment figures to suspension rates at every school in the state.  The problems with the data system started in April when the education department updated its software.

In May, the California School Boards Association and the Association of California School Administrators wrote an open letter to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond detailing several issues with the data system. Among them, students with disabilities were not getting the accommodations they needed during standardized testing.

For the past several months, the education department has been fixing the errors. As of this week, there are still nearly 100 known issues with the data system. According to California Department of Education spokesperson Maria Clayton, the deadline for school districts to upload their student data was previously Sept. 9, but  the department extended it due to school closures caused by “extreme heat and wildfires.”

Clayton said the department has seven developer positions to run the statewide system,  but these are part-time employees that equate to about three full-time staff. There are currently three additional open positions, two of which have been open since November 2021.

“In my perception, the CALPADS team needs enough resources to make sure the system works really well,” Davis said. “It’s hard to find great programmers in the public sector, especially with tech companies offering work from home.”

Davis said his data team is struggling with data errors while trying to manage other start-of-the-year responsibilities like adjusting student schedules, making sure all students are in the right classes and getting administrators the information they need for a smooth school year.

“Do we need to hire more teachers? Do we need to change classes?” Davis said. “The first weeks of school, you don’t want to be doing CALPADS.”


For some reason the revelations from this fine article in Cal Matters by Mr. Hong didn’t surprise us.

First, let’s get something straight.

With all due respect to Mr. Hong, there is virtually ZERO chance that the “data management system for California’s K-12 schools” being “on the fritz for months” is going to prevent one single penny from getting to those same California “K-12 schools”.

Crony political allies all the way up to the Governor will bend over backwards to shovel unlimited cash to corrupt crony “Democrat Only” School Boards like the SDUSD with as little honesty, accountability and transparency as possible.

District Deeds however believes that there is a HUGE chance that the thousands of phantom Students supposedly being served by CDE and SDUSD will NOT actually receive any benefits of those billions of dollars.

One paragraph from the article explains why:

The information in the statewide system is the basis of accountability platforms like the California School Dashboard, which shows the public everything from enrollment figures to suspension rates at every school in the state.  The problems with the data system started in April when the education department updated its software.

Let’s add it up.

Fact 1:  The data system has needed an upgrade for years:

Supporting quote from article:  ” The system upgrade, which both Fine and Davis said was much needed…”

Logic tells us that obviously the “system” didn’t just break in one day like a hard drive crashing.   What more likely happened is that, as more nuanced data reporting and accountability requirements were added to the CALPADS data system, engineering was required to tie all of those components together efficiently and effectively.

Logic also tells us that the CDE has known about this problem for more than the last 6 months…they have known about some of these technical issues for years.

Fact 2: The CDE and SDUSD have a massive enrollment erosion problem:

The CDE/SDUSD had massive loss of enrollment to other non-public school options pre-Covid and then the Covid pandemic additionally motivated hundreds of thousands of families to move away from corrupt and dysfunctional school districts like the SDUSD.

But, as a propaganda tactic, corrupt school district leaders like SDUSD Trustee Richard “Tricky Dick” Barrera, claimed that the drop in enrollment could be blamed on Kindergarteners.  From KPBS:

“San Diego Unified reported 2,474 fewer students than it expected this year. About two-thirds of that deficit came from kindergarten. While the pandemic is the obvious main culprit, district leaders are trying to get a handle on the specific reasons.

“It’s not mandatory for students to attend kindergarten, so we might have some families that are making a choice not to enroll,” said Richard Barrera, school board vice president at San Diego Unified. “We might have other families that aren’t clear about how to enroll.”

This was just a propaganda smokescreen to hide the massive enrollment erosion in middle and high schools at the SDUSD like we exposed on April 25, 2021 in “Marten Lincoln High Enrollment: 1,428; REAL Student Enrollment – Under 500!!! Senators – Do YOU want a Liar in the Education Department?“.

Fact 1: Obsolete CALPADS


Fact 2: Massive Enrollment Erosion =


“Perfect Propaganda”

Drag out and publicize CALPADS “repairs” to create “plausible deniabilty” by blaming sinking enrollment and horrible standardized test results on “bad data” from an unstable CALPADS system rather than poor delivery of education in corrupt School Districts like the SDUSD.

The CDE achieved this goal in 2 ways

#1: Understaff

“Clayton said the department has seven developer positions to run the statewide system,  but these are part-time employees that equate to about three full-time staff. There are currently three additional open positions, two of which have been open since November 2021.”

District Deeds Translation:  “three full-time staff” to manage up to “10,000 errors” from “the state’s more than 1,000 school districts”.

That is potentially over 10 MILLION errors to be handled by “three full-time staff” in a CDE that has 2,740 employees.

#2: Delay the repair

Quote:  “The problems with the data system started in April when the education department updated its software.”

The problems with the data system started” when the CDE decided to start it.

Instead of using the data entry downtime provided by Covid to pilot, fine tune and implement the upgrades, the CDE waited until April 2022, TWO YEARS AFTER the start of the Covid Pandemic in January, 2020, to address the CALPADS problems during the critical 2022 Standardized Testing window!

And, as the article says, the CDE deployed “the upgraded data system launch with minimal testing”.


“Minimal testing” with the risk of losing the ability to track ALL Education in California, a multibillion dollar taxpayer invesment!

And the individual responsible for the delay in repairing the only accountability system available to Parents and other public education Stakeholders and Taxpayers?

Again, no surprise.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, a staunch ally of corrupt former SDUSD Supt/current Asst. Dep. Sec. of Ed. Cindy Marten who received awards and lawsuits for hiding data from Stakeholders and built a career on data reporting corruption!

The real life example of this corruption can be measured in the gross misrepresentation of enrollment data at Lincoln High School allowed by the Tony Thurmond CDE and the SDUSD.

From the SDUSD website, here is the Lincoln Enrollment Data from 2021/2022:

Lincoln actually showed a GAIN of 1 Student, from 2020/21 school year to the 2021/2022 school year.

Sounds GREAT…right?

Now lets look at the overall Lincoln High School Absenteeism from 2020/21, the most recent year available from the CDE DataQuest site:

1,388 Students absent with an average of 26.5 days absent.  But it is even WORSE than it looks.  This is not just a few Students with triple digit absences.  And those Students are getting ZERO support on the days they are absent.

The report below regarding Chronic Absenteeism says that 620 out of the 1,490 Students at Lincoln are chronically absent.

How can some of those 620 Students with much more more than 26.5 days absent still count toward Lincoln enrollment?  There have to be some Students with triple digit absences.

Here is the Chronic Absenteeism rate for Lincoln from the CDE DataQuest site:

On the same page, here is the definition of a Chronic Absenteeism according to the CDE Glossary:

“Students are determined to be chronically absent if they were eligible to be considered chronically absent at the selected level during the academic year and they were absent for 10% or more of the days they were expected to attend.”

So how, when funds are provided to schools based on Average Daily Attendance, does chronic absenteeism and a flawed CALPADS system actually help Schools, School Districts and the CDE?

There are 2 simple ways for those entities to avoid honesty, transparency and accountability:

  • Using the data disaster to create a public lack of confidence in CALPADS and undermine validity of horrible Standardized Testing results.
  • Artificially inflating enrollment to avoid proof that families are running away from California Public Schools due to gross educational, operational and financial mismanagement

And this article from Cal Matters exposes one more huge question to answer:

How does the CDE allow corrupt school districts (like the SDUSD) to have schools like Lincoln with a 41% chronic absenteeism rate, with less than 50% English Proficiency and less than 35% Math Proficiency and still graduate 84% of their Students without demanding a full independent forensic audit of all funds and programs being deployed by the district?


Ask the corrupt Thurmond, his BFF Dep. Sec. of Ed., Trustee Tricky Dick Barrera and SDUSD Supt. Lovey Dovey”Empty Suit” Lamont…and get ready for more lies.

Now for our quote of the week dedicated to those Federal, CDE and SDUSD bureaucrats that always choose their own financial and political corruption over the needs of millons of California Students:

“The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.” – B. F. Skinner


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