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New state program delays CMS report cards a week

The new state data system that caused scheduling and other problems earlier this year has forced Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and a handful of other systems in North Carolina to delay issuing first-quarter report cards.

CMS officials are sending notices home to parents this week, telling them the report cards are expected to be issued around Nov. 22 – a week later than originally planned. Other districts have similar delays.

The problem, according to CMS officials, is a glitch in PowerSchool, the new student information management system that controls everything from bus routes to attendance records to grades. Pearson School Systems, a New York-based technology company that created PowerSchool, says it plans to make repairs.

“Pearson says it plans to fix the problem this weekend, and we’re hoping it works,” CMS spokeswoman Stacy Sneed said Wednesday.

While it’s been successful around the nation, PowerSchool has never been used for a district as large as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools or the Wake County Public School System.

The report card problem develops when teachers use the computer program and try to enter students’ grades, Sneed said.

“They are not able to save information in the system,” Sneed said. “The system seems to freeze.”

The problem does not affect students in kindergarten through second grade, whose grades are entered in a different system. Those report cards will go home at the end of this week.

Not all teachers encountered the problem, but many did. Sneed said CMS decided to hold all report cards for Grades 3-12 and issue them at one time.

Problematic start across state

PowerSchool began being introduced across North Carolina in September 2012 and started in Charlotte this school year. State education officials say the system allows teachers, parents and students to view grades, assignments and other information. It also lets teachers access educational resources, according to state officials.

Problems with PowerSchool also were reported in August with student schedules. Some students arrived at school for the first day of classes with no schedules or schedules with a number of problems.

At Albemarle Road Elementary, for example, some families registered in the summer but showed up to find students weren’t assigned to a classroom.

Sneed said a second earlier problem developed when high school students trying to apply early for college were unable to get transcripts from PowerSchool.

Both problems were solved, she said.

Similar report card delays are being reported in Wake and Johnston counties. At Wake County Public School System, the state’s largest district, report cards for traditional-calendar elementary students were supposed to be distributed Nov. 4. But schools officials announced they’ll delay report cards until the week of Nov. 25. Schools officials are attributing the delay to “an ongoing statewide software issue.”

In Johnston County, schools have experienced difficulties with the system, ranging from teachers not being able to save grades to disappearing attendance information. Johnston experienced difficulties with the section regarding conduct and comments, according to spokeswoman Tracey Jones.

“We are working closely with the North Carolina Department of Instruction to resolve the current issues with PowerSchool in order to produce report cards that are error free and of the quality expected in Johnston County,” she said.

No issues in Union Co.

But not all systems are delaying report cards.

“It appeared as if the problem was affecting the biggest of the school systems,” said Rob Jackson, public information officer for the Union County Schools. “We had problems earlier in the year, but so far, we’re OK with the report cards.”

Pearson bought the old North Carolina data system in 2010 and phased it out, forcing the state to choose between a one-year transition or a more costly two-year phase-in. North Carolina went with one year, which left state and local educators scrambling to master PowerSchool.

T. Keung Hui and Samantha Gilman of the (Raleigh) News & Observer contributed.

Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle
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