Prince George’s County Public Schools reduced the number of late grade entries and implemented a graduation certification checklist in the year after a grade-fixing scandal rocked the school system, according to a recent audit.
The results of the audit, released Tuesday, also found that staffers are now more aware of school policies and procedures.
“The audit findings clearly indicate the level of seriousness that our leaders, administrators and teachers gave to these issues,” interim schools CEO Monica Goldson said in a statement. “Parents, employees, community members and especially students must have confidence in high school diplomas awarded by Prince George’s County Public Schools. My job is to continue our focus on doing right by those who matter most.”
The state hired D.C.-based Alvarez & Marshal Public Sector Services to conduct an audit of the school system last year, which found that nearly 30 percent of students randomly sampled didn’t have proper documentation to graduate, or were simply ineligible. It also noted rampant absenteeism.
The Maryland State Board of Education discussed a second audit conducted this year at its meeting Tuesday in Baltimore. The school system received praise for implementing more than half of the 40 recommendations presented last year.
According to the report, Prince George’s “nearly eliminated issues with graduating students who have not met transcript or service learning requirements.”
“I think we need to give credit where credit is due,” said Justin Hartings, president of the state school board. “The fact that [Alvarez took] a closer look at this district … and found so much better practice is very positive. I think the district needs to be commended for the work they’ve done.”
Hartings and other board member expressed concern about how this year’s audit showed similar results in terms of student absences.
About 654 of 1,085 students, or 60 percent, “of the graduate sample passed one or more core courses in their senior year with excessive unlawful absences,” the audit found. The sample comes from nearly 7,280 graduates from the class of 2018.
According to the more than 150-page document, some of the problems occurred due to data collection and record keeping.
Recommendations to improve the school system include:
• Perform an initial audit of SchoolMAX, an online portal used by teachers to posts grades that can be reviewed by students and parents, to verify the quality and validity of its attendance data.
• Continue to improve staff training and standardization around the graduation certification process.
• Regularly review attendance data to identify data irregularities.
The audit notes the school system didn’t include an action plan with these two recommendations: “PGCPS leadership should ensure timely investigation and response into complaints to avoid press involvement with internal complaints,” and “the board should receive regular briefings into any complaints of fraud impacting student outcomes.”
The school system plans to send an updated plan to the state by Jan. 11. The state board wants to invite Prince George’s officials and discuss the findings during its next meeting, scheduled Jan. 22.