One School District, no clear grade changing policy

One School District, no clear grade changing policy

BALTIMORE (WBFF) - One school district and no clear policy. That is the latest finding of a Project Baltimore investigation into claims of grade changing in Baltimore City.

As District leaders at North Avenue continue investigating the grade changing allegations Fox45 reported, we learned the school board and school administrators are also looking at themselves. The Baltimore City School Board does not have a grade changing policy. North Avenue has no guidelines in writing for schools to follow. The only language that exists for changing a grade is in the teachers’ union contract, which North Avenue admitted to Fox45, it’s not enforcing.

The Baltimore City School Board is nine appointed men and women, tasked with leading a $1.3 billion District that spends nearly $16,000 a student. An amount that is the fourth most in America. It’s also a School Board, that following a recent Project Baltimore report, has launched an investigation into itself.

“We appreciate that you’ve highlighted this,” said School Board Chair Cheryl Casciani. “As the investigation that we’ve initiated now is underway, we have these allegations as things come to light. If they have policy implications, we are definitely going to address them.”

In early August, Project Baltimore spoke to teachers, who say failing grades they submitted where changed, so some seniors could graduate. Report cards, obtained by Fox45, show students failed required courses, yet still received diplomas.

“What you do as a teacher, the effort you put in, the hard work you put in, means absolutely nothing,” said one of the educators, whose identities we are protecting.

“It’s unfair to the student because he didn’t get that knowledge,” added another.

After that initial report, Project Baltimore dug in. We wanted to know the policy for changing a grade in City Schools. Here’s what we found. The districts that surround Baltimore (Howard, Baltimore County, Anne Arundel) all have written policies or regulations for changing a student’s grade. But City Schools confirmed to Fox45, it doesn’t have either. The School Board never passed a policy. And North Avenue has no rules in writing for schools to follow.

The only written guidelines are in the Baltimore Teachers Union Contract – which is approved by the School Board. It says if a student’s grade is changed it must be documented two ways - in writing and in the computer system where grades are stored. But North Avenue admitted to Project Baltimore those two requirements aren’t being enforced. So, if grades are being changed in Baltimore City, it’s not properly documented.

Casciani admitted to Fox45 it is North Avenue’s responsibility to enforce the teachers’ contract. “And now that we are aware of these things,” she said, “we will take a look at all the things that come to light including any policy implications.”

“I can’t say I am surprised. But I am disappointed,” said former City Council member Carl Stokes, now CEO of Banneker Blake Charter School. Stokes says changing a student’s grade can be necessary – if the student gets sick or finishes work late. But he says the District’s lack of a clear policy and failure to enforce what is in writing could lead to big problems.

“Grades are changed for not necessarily the proper reason and it opens it up to a lot of integrity issues some of which may be fraudulent, illegal, unethical,” warned Stokes.

Sean Conley, City Schools Chief Academic Officer, confirmed to Project Baltimore over the phone that changes in grades are not being properly documented. But he denied our request for an on camera interview to discuss it.

Meanwhile, City Schools investigation into grade changing is being closely watched by Governor Larry Hogan who tells Project Baltimore if new policies are needed, they should be passed.

“Sounds like perhaps as a result of this investigation, if they find the wrongdoing you appeared to have uncovered, they ought to take that under consideration and look at the policies of surrounding jurisdictions and maybe take that kind of an action,” Hogan told Fox45. “We want to provide the best education for kids.”

North Avenue did confirm to Project Baltimore that it’s now working on a way to ensure – that next year - any grade change comes with written documentation.

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