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caption: Garfield High School in Seattle
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Garfield High School in Seattle
Credit: Flickr Photo/Joe Wolf (CC BY ND 2.0)/

Seattle transcript snafu: Students ‘stressed’ after glitch delays college application process

An outage of Seattle Public School's digital grade-recording system has left high school seniors scrambling to get transcripts to their college prospects.

Garfield High School senior Emma Chenette already had a full plate. She used to spend her free time mulling over liberal arts colleges, and deciding between her top choices: Wellesley in Massachusetts and Barnard in New York City.

Now she spends her evenings writing to each of the 10 schools she’s already applied to, explaining why Seattle Public Schools hasn’t yet provided her first semester grades.

The first college to reach out about the missing grades was Barnard, who emailed Chenette on Feb. 7. They needed her mid-year report immediately, or they weren’t going to view her application at all, she said.

She isn’t the only senior missing their grades.

The web-based grading systems used in Seattle Public Schools — PowerSchool and PowerTeacher — experienced technical problems at the end of first semester, causing a delay for teachers in documenting students’ grades. Consequently, students' transcripts haven't yet made it to their prospective colleges.

“Nobody has that much info, but we’re all pretty stressed out,” Chennette said about herself and her classmates. “We’re texting each other, ‘Oh man, when is this going to happen? What do we do?’”

Seattle Public Schools is working with PowerSchool and the computer software company Oracle to determine precisely what happened, said district spokesperson Tim Robinson. He added that the district had not previously experienced such an outage.

District officials estimate that it will take until March 2 for transcripts and report cards to be ready. Typically, the process would be completed by mid-February. The University of Washington is releasing acceptance decisions for fall between March 1-15.

In a statement, a PowerSchool spokesperson wrote, "We continue to work collaboratively with Seattle Public Schools to help address any issues in their current version and environment" and added that "the software is performing correctly as intended. We do not have any reports of other customers anywhere experiencing similar issues."

Without these grades, Chennette’s application is weaker, her mom Elizabeth Chennette said.

“Emma is taking five AP classes and earning As in all of them,” she said in an email. “These grades are the most powerful example she has for colleges that she can handle rigorous academics, and her application is weaker without this transcript. PowerSchools has been down for two or three weeks!”

The 12th grader has already received four decisions from schools that did so without evaluating her first semester grades.

On Feb. 14, the Friday before a week-long break, the district provided Chennette and other seniors in the district a letter to mail to any concerned colleges. A hard copy was made available to students in the school’s counseling office.

“Our kid is a senior. We’ve been around the block a few times, but this is incredibly disappointing," Elizabeth Chenette said.

Employees were first made aware of the problem on Jan. 31, Robinson said. Service was briefly restored the next week, but then the system crashed again a day later. It was finally restored and phased back in on Feb. 7. High school teachers were given renewed access that same day.

On that same afternoon, all high school counselors were notified about the delay, according to the Seattle Public Schools. Four days later, the district emailed four-year, in state colleges about the outage and posted a message to an online admissions group.

Even still, Chenette's mother still feels more could be done, and that the glitch is just one example of her frustrations with the school district.

"We’re so frustrated and sad," Elizabeth Chenette said. "This is the cherry on top of a 13 year Seattle Public Schools career. Nothing functions here."