Politics & Government

Grading glitch is causing report card delays at schools across NC

A student works a problem during a math class at Athens Drive High School in Raleigh on Sept. 4, 2014.
A student works a problem during a math class at Athens Drive High School in Raleigh on Sept. 4, 2014. cseward@newsobserver.com

School districts across North Carolina are delaying release of new student report cards and are revising earlier report cards because of a statewide software glitch that potentially miscalculated thousands of grades.

A software error in the PowerSchool PowerTeacher Pro application used by many North Carolina teachers to enter their grades caused some student grades from the first quarter of the school year to be incorrectly rounded up or down. Schools have been reviewing their grades, with several announcing that they’re delaying the release of second quarter/first semester report cards that would typically be sent to families in late January or early February.

“We appreciate your patience as we work to correct this statewide issue,” Durham Public Schools said in a robocall message Thursday to parents explaining that report cards are being delayed.

Durham traditional-calendar students will get their next report cards with corrected first-quarter grades on Feb. 12 instead of Feb. 4. Students at Durham’s year-round schools and specialty high schools will get corrected report cards on Feb. 8.

It’s not immediately clear how many of North Carolina’s 1.5 million public school students were affected by the glitch. The state Department of Public Instruction says that as many as 109 school districts and 59 charter schools are affected, but not every student in those schools had grading issues.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools does not plan to delay second-quarter report cards or revise those from first quarter, Chief Communications Officer Tracy Russ said Friday afternoon. But he said CMS is continuing to review the situation.

The state Department of Public Instruction “has not provided uniform guidance for districts in this matter,” Russ said in an email. “CMS wants to ensure that student grades are calculated accurately and is still assessing the possible impacts.”

Chapel Hill-Carrboro school officials told parents this week that about one-third of students across the state have had grading discrepancies. But Todd Silberman, a DPI spokesman, said that percentage was false.

Silberman said in classes where there were problems, potentially 15 percent to 20 percent of students were affected.

Durham Public Schools told parents that potentially 10 percent of the district’s middle school and high school students may have been affected.

DPI officials say they began notifying schools in December about errors found in grades and have since fixed the software problem. But now schools are working through how to resolve the first-quarter grading issues.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro families were notified in a message Wednesday night that revised first quarter grades will be released by Jan. 30 and can be viewed on the PowerSchool portal. Grades from the second quarter will be released around Feb. 8.

“It is our district’s goal to ensure every grade is an accurate reflection of student performance,” Chapel HIll-Carrboro said in the message to families.

Some districts don’t know yet when they’ll release second-quarter report cards.

In Wayne County, school officials say the release of report cards for traditional-calendar schools is being delayed while the first-quarter grades are verified.

This school year, DPI told schools to enter the grades in PowerTeacher Pro using a numeric scale instead of a traditional A-F grading scale. Districts like Wayne County and Chapel Hill-Carrboro say they’re redoing grades using the A-F grading scale to ensure that the marks are accurate.

Chatham County Schools plans to release report cards by Feb. 8. They were originally supposed to go out Jan. 29.

Davidson County Schools, Thomasville City Schools and Lexington City Schools are all delaying their report cards, The Dispatch reported.

The Moore County school system is delaying its second quarter report cards, The Pilot reported.

Some school districts, such as Johnston County, say they’re not affected by the grading glitch.

The Wake County school system isn’t affected because it runs an iteration of the software that it can independently configure, the Associated Press reported.

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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.