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UPDATED: San Diego Unified had trouble with transcripts


By Derek Staahl

SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Unified School District has been working to improve its student information software and transcript procedures after students at several of its high schools reported issues with their college applications, and one error that may have disqualified a student from a prestigious scholarship.

“We are aware of some issues that students have had with uploading transcripts to college and university sites with a reporting tool that we have, and we are working to address that,” spokesperson Ursula Kroemer told San Diego 6.

Superintendent Cindy Marten prepared a blanket letter in February explaining the district was having trouble with its new student information system, and urged universities and other institutions to show San Diego Unified students leniency for missed deadlines.

“We recognize the continued need for system refinements on academic data related to student transcript information. As we work through this process, we ask that you hold our students harmless for any unforeseen nuances on their transcripts and for any possible deadlines missed due to our internal workings,” she wrote.
The letter was distributed to all 17 of the district’s high schools, Kroemer told San Diego 6. Counselors could then pass along the letter as they saw fit.
District staff did not immediately know how many students had been affected by the software issues as of Tuesday. Kroemer indicated “several” students reported issues. After speaking with district IT staff on Wednesday, Kroemer said the issues affected all high schools but have since been resolved.
Lincoln To, a 17-year-old who graduated from Serra High School in the spring, said he was disqualified from a QuestBridge scholarship because the school failed to submit his transcript. To, who ranked fifth in his class with a 4.67 grade point average, had been notified he was a finalist for the scholarship in October.
“I think considering the fact that I was rejected purely because they made a mistake, that made me really upset,” he told San Diego 6.
QuestBridge links students with full-ride scholarships at several top schools, and To had been targeting Stanford University.
“I could be going to the top engineering school on the west coast. I could be having a great time at one of the best schools in the world.”
Emails provided to San Diego 6 show Serra High School Principal Michael Jimenez acknowledged the school’s mistake, and urged QuestBridge to reconsider.
“Lincoln submitted all that was required of students.  The school report was not sent to Stanford due to a technological error.  We have been having difficulties uploading transcripts through our program (Naviance) in order to send electronic copies of students transcripts (sometimes it would work at other times it would not) to desired institutions,” he wrote in an email in December.
“Because Lincoln trusted our electronic system and it failed, Lincoln lost or missed out… As stated above, it was out of Lincoln's control and he is a very deserving student of this scholarship.”
On Wednesday, Kroemer said further investigation showed Lincoln's transcript issue was not the result of an technical failure as the principal had stated. She would not confirm it was human error.
There were about 12,000 applicants to QuestBridge last year and of those 4,773 were selected as finalists, QuestBridge spokesperson Grace Sun told San Diego 6 on Wednesday. The final determination on who receives a scholarship is made by the partner university, she said, and a total of 440 students received one.
QuestBridge does not require official transcripts but partner universities do, so admissions officers at the university could have considered To's application incomplete, she said. 
Lincoln To and his family became so upset by the district's oversight, they filed a claim against San Diego County in March asking for $250,000 -- the full value of the scholarship. The claim was denied.
District officials offered Lincoln an apology on Tuesday.
“We made a mistake. We're fixing that mistake so that it doesn't happen again,” said Kroemer.
“As a result of that we've looked at what are the steps we need to take within our schools and our counseling systems to make sure that information for scholarship activity is provided to those organizations in a timely fashion so students don't miss out on those opportunities,” she said.

The district has reexamined its procedures and updated its online software to allow students to directly submit their transcripts to scholarship organizations, Kroemer said.
The technical problems cited by Cindy Marten's letter have been resolved, Kroemer said Wednesday. She previously said some issues were still being addressed.
"We received zero inquiries or complaints from students that colleges and universities were not receiving transcripts for admissions consideration," she wrote in an e-mail. "Lincoln’s scholarship submission issue, while very unfortunate, was thankfully an isolated issue."
As for Lincoln, he told San Diego 6 he has moved on. He's heading to UCLA on Wednesday for freshman orientation with a full-tuition scholarship.


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