From Prince George’s County, Maryland, comes this story of “earning” a high school diploma the wrong way – that is, making sure that student achievement looks good on paper but without improving the quality of education:
…One [teacher] said he did everything he could this year to help a senior headed toward failure — contacting parents, alerting a counselor and an administrator and referring him to a school intervention team. But little changed, so the teenager got an E — a failing grade — in an English course required for graduation.
A couple weeks later, he said, he spotted the student in a cap and gown, collecting a diploma. How that happened remains a mystery, he said. “It solidified what I’d heard about grades being changed and that administrators will do whatever it takes to make sure they meet their graduation rates,” he said.
At another school, a teacher said two of her seniors this year missed weeks of school, did not do assignments or make up work, and failed her course. But the principal encouraged students and their families to appeal, she said, and their course grades were revised to a C and a D. She was told both graduated.
At a third high school, an employee with firsthand knowledge said grade-change forms are often signed by the principal but not by teachers. The employee said the forms are often attached to academic “packets” designed to compensate for missed or failed work, but many of the packets are only partly complete.
“I think it’s all a numbers game,” the employee said, alleging that more than 100 students at the school graduated with the help of such changes during the past four years.
Four-year graduation rates in Prince George’s have jumped from 74.1 percent in 2013 to 81.4 percent in 2016…the largest gain for that period of any school system in Maryland….
Read the rest of Some employees in a large Maryland school system see signs of grade tampering, if the Washington Post‘s subscriber wall will allow you to do so.
By tampering with grades which are supposed to reflect students’ achievement, the Prince George’s County Public Schools System has denigrated and devalued the high school diplomas for all the students enrolled in the school system!
Of course, educational malpractice is not unique to the Prince George’s County Public School system. See Dozens of Atlanta educators falsified tests, state report confirms (2011) and Public school employees who falsify student data are making a mockery of reform efforts (2012) and When Teachers, Not Students, Do The Cheating (2014) – to cite just three articles on the topic.
Lest we think that only public schools engage in such unethical behaviors, I am here to tell you that private schools sometimes cheat.
In fact, at the last private school in which I taught, administrators often overrode teachers’ submitted grades so as to put higher grades on the report cards. The administration’s philosophy at the time was that parents shouldn’t see C‘s on their children’s report cards because, after all, the parents were paying hefty tuition rates. As a result of this grade cheating on the part of the administration, several other teachers and I resigned at the end of the school term.
There were plenty of applicants to fill the vacancies we created. Mammon triumphs, after all.
Sadly, for especially the last five years, I’ve been something similar occurring in the homeschooling movement. Most parents now are looking for good grades for their children so that their children look good on paper – never mind the erosion of learning itself.
Is it any wonder that we are seeing a decline in actual education (student learning), particularly in high school and beyond? Even worse, is it any wonder that we are seeing an overall decline in student interest in acquiring knowledge?