Last year, the Inlander took a look at Schoolnet, Idaho’s statewide “instructional management system” that was intended to allow schools to seamlessly share tests, lesson plans and student data across the state. But in reality, teachers reported, it was glitch-prone, poorly organized and excruciatingly slow.
"It became too slow for us to use," said Mike Nelson, the Coeur d’Alene School District's director of curriculum and assessment. “If you were going to offer your own test, a 20-minute test would probably take you up to two hours or three hours to create."
Even worse, it produced flagrantly inaccurate information.
This a week, a report from the state’s Office of Performance Evaluations laid out just how much the system had failed. From the very beginning, it’s pretty brutal:
This evaluation report concludes that poor management, poor decisions, and poor system functionality compounded themselves and prevented the goals for a statewide instructional management system from being realized. The net result is that the project has sunk costs of about $61 million, and the Department of Education and the Legislature are left with few options to consider when deciding the future of the program.
To anyone following the issue, the dismal grade is not surprising. But this report digs deeper, explaining the problems went beyond technical difficulties, and began long before a vendor was even selected. Much of the blame is laid at the feet of Idaho Department of Education, which appeared to have ignored concerns raised, from the start, by multiple groups. Grant funding proposals received dismal scores, highlighting “unrealistic or overly ambitious goals” and “a lack of detail, evidence, discussion, or comprehensive information about implementation of its proposals.”
If not for generally favorable regional market forces, Spokane would easily be on par with such prosperous communities as Rochester, New York; Flint, Michigan; Youngstown, Ohio; and Scranton, Pennsylvania. The gods of economics have been charitable, however, and granted us the indispensable virtue of being a regional cosmopolitan and financial market center for a broad international geography. Thus, instead of suffering a fate akin to rustbelt communities of similar size, we’ve managed to glide on the contrails of metropolitan areas that have experienced rapid growth since 1990—Boise, Idaho; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Albuquerque, New Mexico.He sees something symbolic in how long it took the city to find its "Near Nature, Near Perfect" slogan.
And now we come full circle back to “Near Nature, Near Perfect.” Dwelling on a simple city slogan may seem trivial but it’s emblematic of a larger challenge that faces the community. The scale of cause and effect accomplishments within Spokane’s political arena has diminished to a point of such insignificance that even fruit as low hanging as changing a slogan takes months of consensus building and, in the end, they still only get it half right and about a decade too lateMost interesting, however, is Tedesco's assessments of the political culture:
Of course, as any local will tell you, the financial and political trauma created by the River Park Square fiasco has yet to wane. The transaction wrought such a large degree of paranoia that Average Joe citizens will no doubt compare the next proposed public/private partnership to that of River Park Square and, worst yet, community leaders will no doubt continue to hesitate from entering into the next public/private partnership for fear of being chastised as creating another River Park Square. Thus, the political environment has diminished to such a state that any prospect of attracting significant investments is paralyzed by speculation and fear on both sides.
This comes as no surprise, however, because the puzzle that is Spokane politics is often an irrational one. The allogamy between people, organizations, business and political interests is fluid and often veiled beneath the surface. Veterans of the local political arena, in particular executive level public and quasi-public officials, choose their words wisely because expressing direct opinions that challenge the status quo, however irrational the status quo might be, is dangerous territory that may well end with a termination notice.
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