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City Schools Issues Memo in Response to Fox45 Investigations

City Schools Issues Memo in Response to Fox45 Investigations

Baltimore City Public Schools administrators at North Avenue continue to respond to Project Baltimore’s recent investigations into allegations of grade changing. Not only has City Schools launched internal investigations into at least two schools, a recent memo details other steps the District’s taken in response to Fox45’s reporting.

In the memo, City Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises calls our reports on allegations of grade changing “disheartening.” But says she’s taking them very seriously.

“Integrity in Grade Reporting” is the subject. Obtained by Project Baltimore, it went to all 9375 full-time employees. It starts, “Many of you are no doubt concerned by recent news reports alleging widespread grade-changing. I am concerned, too, and I want you to know that we are taking the reports very seriously.”

In August, Project Baltimore interviewed two teachers who first spoke about allegations of grade changing – which school leaders vehemently denied. That first investigation featured report cards of failing students who graduated, and has since spawned a dozen more reports.

City Schools, confirmed to Fox45, the memo is in response to Project Baltimore’s reporting, which this month uncovered a text that appeared to show a principal instructing her teachers to change failing grades to passing.

In the memo, Dr. Santelises says grade changing does a “deep disservice to our students.” She then outlined corrective steps the District has taken. In addition to launching internal investigations into two city schools, the central grading system is being analyzed, school leaders were issued grading guidelines and mandatory training has been ordered for those who input grades.

Santelises concludes by calling our investigations “disheartening”. She ends on a positive note saying, “I know that every day there are countless positive stories of learning, leadership, and professionalism unfolding in our schools.”

Full Memo:

Dear Colleagues,

As we finalize first-quarter progress reports for distribution to students and families, many of you are no doubt concerned by recent news reports alleging widespread grade-changing in past reporting periods. I am concerned, too, and I want you to know that we are taking the reports very seriously. In August, we began an analysis of grade data held in our central systems. We have also provided school leaders with detailed guidance on required practices and processes regarding grade-changing and have instituted mandatory training for grade reporters.

Our responsibility to uphold the highest standards of professional integrity includes ensuring the accuracy of reporting on student achievement. Anything less undermines our professionalism and, more important, does a deep disservice to our students. Of course, there are legitimate reasons for changing grades—inadvertent omission of a grade on an assignment, late submission of make-up work, simple typographical errors that need to be corrected. But it is imperative that teachers take the utmost care in entering grades, and that all staff involved in grade reporting follow established procedures for reviewing and finalizing grades.

If you have questions about grading policies, please speak with your school leader or contact the Academics Office at 410-396-8810. I also encourage any staff member with knowledge or suspicion of improper or unethical behavior to report it, so that it can be investigated appropriately. Reports, which can be anonymous, can be submitted online or by calling 1-800-679-0185.

Both the seriousness of this issue and the sensational tone of the news reporting about it are disheartening. But I know that every day there are countless positive stories of learning, leadership, and professionalism unfolding in our schools. I encourage you to keep those stories in mind and to share them with your colleagues, school communities, and social networks as a daily reminder of the important work that City Schools students, teachers, and staff are accomplishing together.

Sincerely,

Sonja Brookins Santelises

Chief Executive Officer

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