Teachers stunned by Project Baltimore discovery: “I don’t think it’s possible.”
BALTIMORE, Md. (WBFF) -- How can a high school with zero students proficient in math, have one of the highest graduation rates in Baltimore City?
It’s a question Project Baltimore is asking after teachers from Northwood Appold Community Academy II, or NACA II, contacted us saying grades are being changed so students can graduate.
“I don’t think it’s possible,” says one of the teachers who sat down with Fox45. We’re disguising their identities because the educators fear retaliation.
“You should think at least one. But none? Wow!” says the other teacher.
None. Zero. It’s a number that also got our attention.
NACA II is a Baltimore City high school that has its troubles. According to district data analyzed by Project Baltimore, attendance rates are down since 2013, while chronic absenteeism has nearly quadrupled and suspensions have more than doubled. Yet, the school reports an 87 percent graduation rate, the exact same as the state average.
’13 ’14 ’15 ‘16
Attendance Rates: 95 92 91 88
Chronic Absenteeism: 7 21 18 27
Suspensions: 24 38 28 53
Source: Baltimore City School Profiles
But then we found that NACA II has zero students proficient in state math testing and just 5 percent proficient in English. Compare that to the state, where 36 percent of students are proficient in math, 44 in English – yet, both have the same graduate rate.
Grad Rate Math English
NACA II: 87% 0% 5%
Maryland: 87% 36% 44%
Source: State Department of Education
When asked how can that happen, one NACA II educator responded, “Grade changing. Giving out diplomas to students that did not earn them.”
Added the other, “If they’re not proficient and not passing those tests, they shouldn’t have graduated.”
Here’s the problem: High school students are tested by the state in math and English. Their scores place them in one of five categories. A four or five is considered proficient, while one through three are not. At NACA II, 42 students took the Algebra II test last year, and 35 fell into the lowest level. The rest fell into the second lowest category. Not one student even “approached expectations” and scored a three.
“I’m in shock but I understand it,” said one of the teachers. “If you are changing grades and you’re allowing people to walk, of course, that is what your numbers are going to look like.”
NACA II has 17 teachers. Fox45 spoke to three of them, who said students are failing required classes, but still getting diplomas.
Project Baltimore reached out to NACA II’s operator, Dr. Cecil Gray. After two weeks of emailing with his attorney, he declined to comment. But in a previous statement, his lawyer told Project Baltimore, the allegations of grade changing are false. But the Baltimore City Schools Chief Academic Officer, Sean Conley, told Fox45 that what we found raises concerns.
“It is something we would look into,” said Conley speaking of the zero percent proficiency with an 87 percent graduation rate.
“We would take any specific allegations and forward that to the office of investigations if we have any evidence, or what they determine about potential fraud, we would take that very seriously,” Conley said.
North Avenue is looking into it. Since we interviewed Conley a few weeks ago for this story, the Baltimore City School District has launched an internal investigation into NACA II and will no longer comment for legal reasons.