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E-Chowan probes possible grading errors

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Rob Jackson

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By Nicole Bowman-Layton
Chowan Herald

Thursday, January 17, 2019

EDENTON — Computer software used by North Carolina school districts to calculate student grades may have tallied them incorrectly in some districts during the first quarter, resulting in grades that either were too high or too low for an undetermined number of students.

Edenton-Chowan Schools Superintendent Rob Jackson said that shortly before winter break, the school district was notified by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction that there might be a problem with how software calculated student grades during the first quarter of the school year.

DPI provides PowerSchool, software that school districts use to report student grades. Within PowerSchool, there is a program called Power Teacher Pro. School districts use it for storing grades and report cards. DPI started phasing in Power Teacher Pro in 2017-18 and required all districts to use it starting with the current school year.

According to Jackson, DPI asked PowerSchool, the company that owns the Power Teacher Pro software, to look into the possible glitch and report back. Jackson said Edenton-Chowan Schools received an email Jan. 10 stating that there was a problem with grade calculations statewide and that school districts would be sent information on how to find out which courses were affected.

“The next day the state sent out an email notifying districts how to receive that information,” Jackson said. “The information sent to us indicated that all courses for D.F. Walker Elementary, Chowan Middle School and John A. Holmes High School could be affected. NCDPI could not tell us which students could be affected.”

Jackson said the software had caused a grade calculation error, which resulted in students’ grades being rounded to a whole number.

“The impact of that calculation error meant that a portion of students — not every student — had grades that were too high, some had grades that were too low and that semester averages could be impacted by 2 or more points,” he said.

Jackson said DPI informed school districts that it “would not be correcting ... any stored student grades.” If any corrections needed to be made, the districts would have to “identify and make the changes,” he said. DPI officials did advise 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 DPI, said Wednesday that while the software problem seems to be widespread, it does not affect every school district.

Vallerie Jacocks, chief data management officer for the Camden County Schools, said Camden does not appear to be affected by the software glitch.

“Camden County Schools are not experiencing any software problems related to calculating grades at this time,” Jacocks said. “DPI is planning to hold a webinar this week to help answer the questions regarding this matter.”

Spokeswomen for other area school districts could not be reached for comment Wednesday on whether any of their schools have been affected by the grading software problem.

Edenton-Chowan officials, meanwhile, are reviewing all student grades from the first quarter, Jackson said. Officials will correct errors that are identified, he said.

“We believe that it is important that students receive the grades that they earned, and we are working to review and calculate every student’s grades and correct any errors that may have occurred,” Jackson said. “We currently have staff and teachers doing this work to ensure the proper grades are issued. Teachers will be making these corrections in their grade book for all affected students.”

If an error occurred in reporting grades, those errors will be corrected and reported in the next report card, Jackson noted. Corrections will also be available after report cards are issued in the Parent Portal.

“We appreciate the understanding of our parents and the hard work of our teachers and staff as we work to correct this issue and make sure that students’ grades accurately reflect the scores earned,” Jackson said. “We apologize for any inconvenience.”

Reggie Ponder, a staff writer for The Daily Advance, contributed to this report.

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