Did school officials in Prince Georges County, Maryland commit fraud by intentionally inflating the grades of hundreds of students to boost graduation rates?
I hope not.
Still, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan requested an investigation to determine whether Prince George’s County school officials purposefully tampered with grades in public schools across the county.
Prince George’s County Public School Board Member Edward Burroughs III and three other school board members sent a letter to Hogan outlining what they believe to be a pattern of corruption and questioning the integrity of Prince George’s County Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell.
“These actions, which alter the much-touted student graduation rate, are occurring across the school system, leading us to believe that there are accomplices and complicity at the highest levels of the school system,” the letter to Hogan states.
“Such a conclusion, as well as documentation of prior acts of Dr. Maxwell and the school board leadership in lack of veracity in serious incidents such as the Head Start child abuses and subsequent loss of federal funds, makes us skeptical that turning this information to Dr. Maxwell or the school board would result in any effective action,” the letter said.
Here is what The Baltimore Sun reported about the Prince Georges County school scandal:
“Four-year graduation rates in Prince George’s have risen 7.3 percentage points since Maxwell was appointed in 2013 — the largest increase in the state during that time, state data show. Still, the district’s 81.4 percent graduation rate lags more than 5 percentage points behind the state average. Some of Maxwell’s critics on the school board allege those gains were aided by tampering with some students’ records.”
The controversy has received national attention because Prince George’s County is home to 7 of the 10 of the wealthiest black communities in the U.S., and, according to media reports, is among the best educated in the country.
The allegations could also have wide-ranging political implications: Maxwell was appointed to a second four-year term by Prince Georges County Executive Rushern Baker, who is running for Governor of Maryland in 2018 against Republican Governor Larry Hogan and Democrat Ben Jealous, the former head of the NAACP. (Last week, Maya Rockeymoore, the wife of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, (D-MD) said she is also considering entering the race for governor.)
Since taking office, Baker has outlined a series of bold proposals designed to boost performance in Prince Georges County’s public but he has encountered a vexing growing trend: Many middle-class parents are pulling their kids out of Prince Georges County schools and placing them in better-performing private schools.
Prince Georges County is not the first black school district to be accused of inflating grades. In 2015, in what was described as the largest school-cheating scandal in the nation’s history, a jury convicted 11 Atlanta educators for altering standardized tests to inflate grades.
Investigators found cheating occurred in 44 Atlanta schools. Nearly 180 employees, including 38 principals, were accused of wrongdoing as part of an effort to inflate test scores and misrepresent the achievement of Atlanta’s students and schools, according to The New York Times. The charges against the defendants are felonies and carry sentences of 20 years in prison.
Meanwhile, Maxwell of Prince Georges County has denied the grade-inflation allegations.
“Our community does not deserve unfair scrutiny or mischaracterization,” Maxwell wrote in a letter.
Maxwell issued a statement saying the allegations are “politically motivated” and welcomed state education officials to “fully explore” the matter.
“These claims are an affront to the hard work of our teachers, administrators, students and parents over the last few years,” he said. “I categorically deny any systemic effort to promote students who did not meet state graduation requirements.”
The Prince Georges County Education Association said in a statement, “The current policy makes it technically impossible for a teacher to change a grade once published and the integrity of the PGCPS is not in question.”
Only time will tell if the grade-altering accusations are true, but in the meantime, I hope Prince George’s school officials continue to focus on providing students with the resources they need to prepare them for college — and beyond.
What do you think?
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