Politics & Government

Think your report card is wrong? You might be right. NC glitch causes grading errors.

North Carolina school districts are rechecking student grades due to a glitch in a state computer system.
North Carolina school districts are rechecking student grades due to a glitch in a state computer system. cseward@newsobserver.com

North Carolina students may want to recheck their report cards after a glitch in a state computer program incorrectly calculated some grades in nearly every school district in the state and at many charter schools.

Schools have been rechecking grades issued for the first quarter of the school year after potential errors were discovered in a state program used by many teachers to enter grades. The issue is cropping up at a time when many schools are finishing up their second quarter of classes and teachers are preparing to enter the next round of student grades.

The PowerSchool PowerTeacher Pro application shifted grades of students whose final term average ended with one of three decimals — .3, .4 or .5, according to Drew Elliot, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Instruction. It wasn’t immediately clear how many of the state’s 1.5 million public school students are affected.

“We continue to investigate the scope of the issue; for now we can say that as many as 109 school districts and 59 charter schools may have been affected to varying degrees by the grade-calculation function in PowerSchool’s PowerTeacher Pro application, which teachers use to enter assignments and grades,” Elliot said in an email message Thursday.

“Schools or districts that use a different tool for calculating term grades are not affected.”

Elliot said that DPI contacted the vendor immediately when it learned of the issue and has been in communication with districts since mid-December.

Grading errors are an issue because they can impact a student’s transcript and class rank. Districts and charter schools are trying to assess the extent of the problem now.

“We are currently working to understand the size of the issue in our district before making any further decisions about possible changes to future and Q1 grade calculations,” Jeff Nash, a spokesman for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system, said in an email message. “With Q2 report cards going out in 3 weeks, we feel confident that we will have time to implement a solution, and communicate to parents and staff, either before or with the release of Q2 grades.”

Chip Sudderth, a spokesman for Durham Public Schools, said the district is reviewing the impact of the information it’s received from the state Department of Public Instruction.

The Wake County school system says the grading glitch is having no impact on the district.

The program was causing some grades statewide in grades 3 to 12 to be incorrectly rounded, according to the Times-News.

The error caused some grades to be too high and some be too low, the Elizabeth City Daily Advance reported.

DPI told districts in an email message last week that the problem only affects teachers who used PowerTeacher Pro to calculate grades on a numeric 10-point scale. Districts were told they’d be provided with information to help them identify students who may have been affected by the “calculation error.”

“It will be left up to each district to decide whether or not to make these changes retroactive and restore semester 1 term grades,” DPI said in the email. “NCDPI will provide a list of districts that were affected by this calculation error for those who do choose to go back and make these changes.

“Please note that this issue did not affect every student. Districts may resume the process of storing grades once a local decision has been made by your administration.”

T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.
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