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Computer glitch leads to incorrect grades on tests End-of-course scoring mistake will affect some high schoolers' marks
By GAIL SMITH-ARRANTS CONCORD -- Because the wrong computer program was used to figure grades on state end-of-course tests, some Cabarrus County high school students will be getting revised grades for courses they took last fall.
Most students whose final course grades changed received higher marks than were originally reported, said Tish Harris, an assistant superintendent with the county school system.
At Concord High School, for example, grades on fall end-of-course tests changed for 20 percent of students. About half to three-quarters of those yielded higher grades, Harris said. About 5 percent of course grades were lowered, she said.
All 5,000 county high school students will receive letters and new report cards for the 2000-01 school year in the mail by the middle of next week, regardless of whether they had grade changes.
The state end-of-course test counts for 25 percent of a student's final grade in the course.
"It was an honest, human error," Harris said of how the computer problem occurred. When a staffer is converting raw test scores to the 100-point scale used in determining course grades, she said, a window pops up on the computer screen offering options.
Instead of choosing the local system's own conversion table, a school employee last fall selected the state's table.
Harris said school officials aren't sure why the resulting fall grades were mostly higher, since the local conversion table was adopted to set higher expectations than the state's.
One possible factor, she said, was that the math curriculum had changed, and the biggest grade changes occurred in math courses.
The fall semester error was discovered in June, when principals noticed discrepancies between fall and spring semester test scores, Harris said.
School system officials then had to rerun the program and recompute all final grades.
"If a child had a solid C, they probably didn't change at all. Kids who were borderline may have seen a change," Harris said.
Most of the 10 end-of-course tests are for freshmen and sophomores.
Although some students' class rank changed, the four high schools' valedictorians and salutatorians remained the same.
Two high schools - Mount Pleasant and Northwest Cabarrus - each would have had an additional junior marshal last year. Junior marshals are selected based on high academic rank.
Those two students will receive letters of notification as well as apologies, Harris said.
In cases where a student fell just a point short of a passing final grade because of the programming glitch, the school system gave the student the edge.
Harris advised students to see whether their new report cards reflect any changes before calling for more information. Her number is (704) 786-6195, Ext. 115.
-- Carl Jenkins (email@example.com), July 25, 2001