Glitch in electronic grade book crashes system on grade day

Nov. 20, 2006, midnight | By Poorva Singal | 15 years, 6 months ago

Failure in Pinnacle software leaves teachers frustrated

The new computerized grade book, Pinnacle, failed to work properly as middle and high school teachers from across the county tried to enter the final grades for the marking period on grade day. The Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) was told that the failure was due to the crash of one of the two Pinnacle servers, according to MCEA Executive Director Tom Israel.

"Pinnacle is an electronic grade book accessible only by school staff to record student classroom performance," according to the Online Achievement and Reporting System (OARS) web site. It works in conjunction with Edline, a web-based communication tool that allows parents and children to keep track of the students' classroom performance.

The two programs work together to make up OARS, which is currently used by over 50 middle and high schools in Montgomery County. All secondary schools in the county, including Blair, will implement OARS for the 2007–2008 school year.

Pinnacle went down at about 11 a.m. and was not restored for another five hours, said Israel in an email. "Officials eventually shut down the system and fixed a glitch that had caused the networking equivalent of a rush-hour pileup on the Beltway," according to The Washington Post.

Although the problem was fixed and report cards were delivered on time, bugs still persist in the system. "The software is certainly not perfect yet," said junior Seth Reeker, who has attended the OARS Workgroup meetings this year.

Some teachers worry that perhaps Pinnacle is expanding too quickly. MCEA President Bonnie Cullison "expressed in the strongest possible terms the anger and frustration of MCEA members over this incident [of Pinnacle crashing]," according to Israel. "She has also reminded MCPS that last spring MCEA urged a slower roll-out of Pinnacle, and had warned against the rapid expansion which was planned." Though it is too late to heed this advice, Israel believes "it will be the starting point for future discussions about how new technology is rolled out."

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