Ohio’s 11-year-old computer system for gathering education data is obsolete and of little use to districts, members of an advisory committee say.

“The school districts are asked to gather information that doesn’t help them and doesn’t get back to student learning,” said Bruce Hawkins, chief executive officer of the management councel of the Ohio Education Computer Network.

Hawkins sits on a 15-member advisory council guiding the development of a new computer network to improve the state education department’s collection, processing, and analysis of data.

The council includes school administrators, higher education officials, business executives, technology experts, and lawmakers. It met for the first time in October and will spend three years on the project.

State schools Superintendent Susan Tave Zelman created the council after a major data embarrassment in July. A computer glitch caused the department to incorrectly identify 203 schools as having test scores low enough to meet federal guidelines classifying them as underperforming.

Ohio needs a system that gives teachers information about struggling students and helps administrators identify best teaching practices, Zelman said. The system would help the state figure out where to spend money.

Like many states, Ohio also needs to overhaul its system to comply with data reporting requirements in the No Child Left behind Act, she added.

For the past 11 years, the department has used an accounting system that collects data from school districts solely for administrative purposes.

“In this system, the only data I can see [are for] one year. There is no mechanism for bringing the data all together,” Hawkins said. Beth Folger, principal at Perry Elementary School in Perry, said her school uses its own data system to determine which students need help.

“But we need a statewide integrated system that will allow us to report the information we need to externally, but also keep the same data internally,” she said. “We should all be working from the same information.”