Grade Inflation Audit Criticized at Prince George’s School Board

Prince George's County school board member Edward Burroughs III (right) discusses a performance audit at the school administration building in Upper Marlboro on Nov. 9, as school board member Sonya Williams listens. (Demetrious Kinney/The Washington Informer)
Prince George's County school board member Edward Burroughs III (right) discusses a performance audit at the school administration building in Upper Marlboro on Nov. 9, as school board member Sonya Williams listens. (Demetrious Kinney/The Washington Informer)

The Prince George’s County School Board was strongly criticized during a recent meeting for some school officials’ lauding of a recent performance audit that didn’t find systemwide collusion, but nevertheless showed not only grade manipulation, but rampant absenteeism.

The board held an intense, yet composed discussion Thursday Nov. 9 for nearly two hours in Upper Marlboro on the audit. Dannine Johnson, who has a son in 10th grade at Central High School in Capitol Heights, said students shouldn’t pay for the “incompetence” of administrative staff.

Belinda Queen of Landover not only condemned some of the board members, but directly challenged vice chairwoman Carolyn Boston, who is seeking re-election in District 6.

“I do have a problem with our board serving us not representing the community. I will work hard [to make sure] that some of you are not re-elected,” said Queen, one of three people looking to obtain Boston’s seat. “I am going to win this seat. No offense to you, Ms. Boston, but I’m coming to make a change.”

The Maryland Department of Education released a 211-page document Nov. 3 that sampled 1,212 seniors in the 2016 and 2017 classes and discovered nearly 30 percent either didn’t have proper documentation to determine if they’re worthy to graduate, or simply ineligible.

Among those students sampled, about 5 percent “were determined to be ineligible to graduate due to a student not earning sufficient credits on their transcript to graduate or a student not meeting the service learning requirement.”

The state hired Alvarez & Marsal Public Sector Services of Northwest in August to investigate the problem state officials called “deeply concerned by the report’s findings.”

The audit, which noted all 28 high and specialty schools maintained “poor record keeping” on graduation requirements, offered several recommendations that include:

• School system should provide clarity and training on grading procedures;

• Ensure policies of make-up work are outlined and consistently applied at all schools; and

• Conduct a complete audit of SchoolMAX, an online portal used by teachers to posts grades that can be reviewed by students and parents, because grades are not entered in a timely fashion.

The full document can be viewed at http://bit.ly/2znN5B8.

The county has 60 days to submit a plan to the state. In January, the state’s Board of Education will review the county’s plan for remediation and determine if any additional state action may be required.

Because of the extensive nature of the report, board chairman Segun Eubanks said a special meeting will take place next month for more public discussion.

Edward Burroughs III, one of three school board members who requested the state investigate to review grade inflation activities, peppered high-ranking officials with questions. One dealt with an observation from Alvarez that noted “PGCPS management does not currently monitor adherence to grading procedures” at schools, and that the school system “does not currently verify that schools are following them.”

“Who is responsible for that?” said Burroughs, who represents District 8.

Deputy Superintendent Monique Whittington Davis said it falls under her department, but it will be a collective effort with other school system units during the 60-day state deadline.

“We do know we do have antiquated procedures in order to be able to certify graduation,” Davis said. “So therefore, until it becomes automated, it is going to be difficult to monitor. As we continue to do our plan, this piece that was noted in the audit will be addressed.”

The grade inflation allegations came about earlier this year after Burroughs, Raaheela Ahmed, David Murray and former student member Juwan Blocker signed a letter to request the state examine the situation.

Ahmed, of Bowie, who represents District 5, said top-level school officials never issued an apology to students and parents.

“What this report shows is this system has failed you and I’m sorry,” she said. “As a system, we have the responsibility to educate our kids. What I am really trying to say is I am really stressed and scared. We cannot minimize the issue.”

Lupi Quinteros-Grady, who represents District 2, also expressed displeasure with the report, adding that the board must be unified and discuss problems with colleagues before going to the media.

“I plead with this board that we need to be unified,” said Quinteros-Grady, who has two children in the school system. “We can’t keep using the media first to handle our issues. At the end, I would like to think we all have the best interest of our children.”

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About William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer 376 Articles

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways:
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