The questions are good ones, and they demand answers: How do more than 400 high schoolers’ college prep ACT tests go missing? Why are they never turned in, and what is Moore County Schools doing to ensure a “human error” like this never occurs again?
If ever there was a need to err on the side of over-communication and transparency, this is it. The news last week that Pinecrest High School never turned in 440 standardized tests commonly used to aid college admissions was stunning. The tests, taken Feb. 20 and March 13, have gone missing. The news made headlines across the nation.
In this day when accountability is virtually baked in and chain of custody of records is documented every step of the way, it’s akin to the mailman simply taking the mail bags home and never delivering his route. It’s the bank teller fumbling at the computer and pretending to make deposits that in fact are going into their pocket.
And this comes at a time when concerns are being raised about school administrators’ capabilities to manage redistricting and construction.
An answering is called for here. Now.
Get to the Bottom
There is no undoing the deed. The ACT (American College Testing) exams that last year’s juniors took are now null and void. They have to take it over, which Moore County Schools will accommodate this fall at no financial charge to the students. But to say it is cost-free is wrong.
Students interested in applying to college need to take a prep test like the ACT or SAT — and frequently both — to aid their admission process. A number of students are already working on applications that they will submit this fall. They SHOULD have their test scores well in hand by now. The last piece of the application puzzle, done in the fall, is the college admission essay. But instead, the Pinecrest rising seniors now will be sweating that out in addition to focusing on re-taking the ACT.
How does this happen? Each high school usually has a test coordinator who is well versed on the extensive protocols involving test preparation, administration and sending off completed tests.
In the case of the ACT, school officials said the ACT provides the testing materials, answer sheets and packaging for the results to be shipped back via FedEx. The bar code on the return envelope with answer sheets was never scanned by FedEx.
“School and district officials have conducted a thorough investigation, and appropriate personnel action has been taken,” Pinecrest Principal Stefanie Phillips said in a message sent to parents and posted on the school’s website.
North Carolina law prohibits disclosing personnel actions, but reading between the lines it’s probably safe to assume at least one person lost their job. But that doesn’t begin to address how this happened or why. This can’t just be simple oversight. Is this intentional mischief? Is it criminal?
“The district has begun an effort,” said Phillips, “to re-evaluate security, processes and protocols for the administration of non-EOC/EOG tests including the ACT.
“Additionally, Pinecrest High School has developed a plan of action to ensure the fidelity of testing moving forward.”
Fine, but what is it? The public needs to know, above all else, how Pinecrest and Moore County Schools will ensure test safety and protocols are followed — at all its schools. Bore us with details. A crisis of confidence has been created, so now there can be no such thing as too much communication.
We are reminded of when the Pinecrest football team had to forfeit its victories and playoff appearance in 2015 because of rules violations over timely paperwork filing. There was a similar outrage, and Moore County Schools said what happened, how it happened and the specific discipline meted out.
The school district has worked hard over the last few years to build up its community goodwill and is rapidly depleting that balance. A full accounting — not hiding behind personnel laws and vague answers — must happen here. Let’s put Moore County Schools to the test.