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Software glitch causes incorrect school grades

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Friday, January 18, 2019

Some students in the Twin Counties may have received incorrect grades on report cards earlier this year because of a snafu with state software used to calculate the grades.

The state Department of Public Instruction provides PowerSchool, software used to report student grades, to school districts across the state. Within PowerSchool, there is a program called Power Teacher Pro that schools use for storing grades and report cards. The Department of Public Instruction started phasing in Power Teacher Pro in 2017-18 and required all districts to use it starting with the current school year.

Shortly before the winter break, many school districts in the stat were notified by the department that that there might be a problem with how the software calculated student grades during the first quarter of the school year. The issue resulted in grades that either were too high or too low for an undetermined number of students.

The state Department of Public Instruction reportedly asked PowerSchool, the company that owns the Power Teacher Pro software, to look into the possible glitch and report back. On Jan. 10, many school districts in the state were informed that there was a problem with some grade calculation that caused some student grades to be rounded to a whole number.

Once the issues are identified, school districts will have to make changes to the grades. However, state officials advised school districts they would be working with them to resolve any potential problems that arose during future grading periods this year.

Todd Silberman, a spokesman for the Department of Public Instruction, said Wednesday that while the software problem seems to be widespread, it does not affect every school district. But officials from Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools and Edgecombe County Public Schools said both school districts have been impacted to some degree.

Janet Morris, director of accountability with Edgecombe County Public Schools, said the department sent the following notice to the school district: "There is an issue in PowerTeacher Pro that can lead to an incorrect calculation of grades. This issue only impacts those who are using PowerTeacher Pro to calculate term grades on the numeric (type) 10-point grade scale. Please note that this issue did not affect every student."

“Edgecombe County Public Schools was among the 168 districts identified by NCDPI that were potentially affected by this calculation issue,” Morris said on Thursday. “We are currently waiting for additional guidance from NCDPI as to how to proceed. We currently do not know how many of our students — or if any of our students — were affected by this rounding concern. NCDPI announced (Thursday) that they will be hosting a Q&A webinar soon to provide additional information.”

Morris said the information sent by the state so far simply informed them about which class sections are using the calculation that may have impacted any students in the class.

“We’ve learned that students with a final term grade ending in .3, .4, or .5 are those who will be affected due to the way the rounding works,” Morris said.

Mark Cockrell, chief academic officer for Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, said his school district is also looking into the issue. However, he does not feel that the issue will affect many students.

“Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools was notified late last week of this issue and has been investigating.” Cockrell said. “From our investigation and from we have learned from other districts, we are confident that minimal students in the district will be affected. We will continue to monitor the situation at the end of each grading period and make the necessary adjustments as needed.”

Cockrell said that students and their families will be updated about situation as it unfolds.

“The district will communicate additional information by website and connect ed calls. As always, students and parents are encouraged to speak with their building level administrators if they have any questions,” Cockrell said.

Information from The Chowan Herald and The Daily Advance is included in this report.

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