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HSST? A little background

September 6, 2008 pm30 9:47 pm

HSST, or High School Scheduling T (don’t know what that T stands for) is the collection of web-based programs that New York City high schools use for scheduling.

HSST holds schedules for the schools and individual students, grades (current and previous) for students, transcripts, and so on. For the Bloomberg DoE, HSST is the key program they need to for tracking teachers by their students test scores. This is where the data they intend to abuse is stored.

Student biographical information, entered in ATS (that one I know, it stands for Automate the Schools! and is more user unfriendly than any current piece of software I have encountered) can be accessed in HSST. This includes name, race, address, phone, free lunch status, etc. This information cannot be modified in HSST, however.

HSST was previewed in 2002-03, and forced on mostly unwilling high schools in 2004-05. It is a web-based program, replacing the mainframe-based UAPC (University Application Processing Center). Did they want to save money? Take more direct control? Do things better? Idk.

But HSST is a few different badly cobbled together pieces of software. It had awful problems the first few years. The outcry from high schools across the city was huge, and the articles made the papers.

They claimed it was growing pains. But DIIT (Information Technology) did not have an adequate number of servers to keep it running during peak loads (September, January, June), and even as they occasionally added servers, they also introduced “improvements” which exacerbated the data exchange that took place. In other words, they always raised demand more than they expanded capacity.

Prior to HSST, the Board of Education paid CUNY to use UAPC, which was state of the art (c. mid 1970s). All lines were 80 or 132 characters long, a reminder of the punchcards that were originally used with these computers. “Jobs” were printed in Brooklyn, and messengered to schools the next day.

Programmers, trained on IBM 360/370, with OS, with MVS, and tempered by years of JCL errors, felt at home with UAPC. Newer programmers had more trouble, but borough-wide programmer meetings brought them in contact with senior mentors who were happy to have their expertise tapped.

In large schools, teachers would serve as assistant programmers and learn the ropes, sometimes for years, before taking charge. The proliferation of small schools and 6-12 schools meant a new generation of untrained programmers. They would have been equally lost with HSST and UAPC. Rapid turnover in poorly run small schools exacerbates the problems.

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