TEASER Pinecrest High School Campus

Pinecrest High School (File Photograph/The Pilot)

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.

Be Accountable

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.

(7) comments

Patricia Punch

Kent, I am so tired of you slamming government schools. I went to government schools all my life and they served me well. Get over yourself would you please. This mistake could just as easily happened at a charter or private school.

Peyton Cook

I don’t know when you went to public schools. I, too, went to public schools, but in the 1930s and 1949s. They have radically changed in recent days and many do not serve their students well. There is plenty of anecdotal and and real data to demonstrate the decline. This is demonstrated the most in inner cities. The teacher’s union have gained to much control. Hence the growth of charter and private schools. More States have voucher programs to allow parents living in cities to escape poor schools. The schools in Moore County are better than average. Both the parents and taxpayers who have no school age students have a right to know how this happened, not just it has been investigated and steps have been taken to fix it.

Conrad Meyer

I agree with you Peyton. I wouldn't send my kids (much less Patricia's) to the great government schools I went to in the 60's. Those schools are much worse now, as are the parents and the kids.

Kent Misegades

Good comments. I am a government school graduate. So are my three children. My mother taught in government schools. They were pretty good through the 1970s. Today the US spends more than most other nations on these schools yet we have made no real progress in academic performance compared to other nations. Within the US, NC government schools rank quite low. One report I saw had N.C. ranked 46th from the bottom in average ACT scores. As a taxpayer forced to fund government schools I have a right and a responsibility to complain. I have also invested my money and my time to work for school choice and for workforce development. I gladly take the arrows from those unwilling to accept reality. If you don’t like my comments in this public forum, don’t read them.

Conrad Meyer

Shame on MCS. The management is 99% at fault - they apparently have no idiot-proof process in place to insure test results are handled properly. Future students (and parents) should be demanding an accounting of what actually happened and what the corrective action will be. This quote is 100% accurate "And this comes at a time when concerns are being raised about school administrators’ capabilities to manage redistricting and construction." The microscope just got turned up a couple of notches. We were sold a bill of goods on the school bond issue and now we will be demanding accountability for every cent. Also no cost overruns - no additional money for any reason. It just might be time to clean the closet of school administrators that are not competent.

Kent Misegades

Well put as always Mr. Meyer. My experience watching the decline of Wake County government schools the past 23 years shows many parallels. The only real solution to solving the many problems of the government school industry is to seek other options. Competition is a rising tide that raises all ships. Education should be no different. Nearly 20% of all school-age children in Wake County today do not attend government schools. Home, private and charter schools provide outstanding, diverse and low-cost options for pupils as well as more employment opportunities for good educators. Competition is strong for limited dollars and families expect a return on their direct investment. Eventually they will and should demand universal vouchers so their tax dollars are spent on the schools of their choice, rejecting the dictates of unelected government school bureaucrats.

Kent Misegades

Government schools.

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