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APS: We are investigating and punishing grade changing.

I joined "A Closer Look with Rose Scott and Denis O'Hayer" on WABE, Atlanta's NPR station, today. WABE education reporter Martha Dalton was also on the program.

Among the education issues we discussed: The need for Atlanta Public Schools to act quickly on the allegations of grade changing in some of its high schools so Superintendent Meria Carstarphen can continue to gain the confidence of parents and the public.

APS appears to be doing so.

Here is a statement Atlanta Public Schools released tonight on what it has done and what it has sent to the Fulton District Attorney:

Over the course of the 2014-2015 school year, Atlanta Public Schools has investigated eight allegations of inappropriate grade changes at its schools. Four investigations are now complete, two are still underway, and two were deemed unsubstantiated by the APS Office of Employee Relations.

"APS takes seriously any improper grade changing or alleged retaliation on employees who seek to do the right thing in our schools. We are tackling unethical behavior, making employees accountable, and promoting a safe environment for employees to report allegations of dishonorable actions by other employees,” said Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen, superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools. “It is important for our stakeholders to know that APS is undergoing a culture change.”

Superintendent Carstarphen adds that the district is committed to performing thorough investigations on allegations of misconduct in order to obtain solid evidence and facts that would support eliminating unethical behavior in the district.

The four completed investigations include Carver School of Technology, South Atlanta High School of Law & Justice and Booker T. Washington High School.

As a result of the Carver School of Technology investigation, it was recommended that the school’s principal receive a demotion and that the assistant principal receive a reprimand. According to the report, the principal directed an employee to give a class of students the same grade after it was believed that no one had monitored or recorded grades during the first semester of 2014-2015 school year while a long-term substitute taught the class.

The principal and assistant principal were cited for failure to monitor student performance under a substitute teacher. APS Employee Relations investigators state that the principal also failed to assess students’ mastery of performance of the class work when the principal issued an arbitrary grade to students. While unrelated to this investigation, APS recently abolished the principal, secretary, and other duplicate positions during its consolidation of small schools within APS high schools.

At South Atlanta High School, the principal was placed on administrative leave through the end of the 2014-15 school year at the recommendation of APS investigators. The report concludes that the principal changed grades under various circumstances to prevent students from failing a class during the 2013-2014 school year. After June 30, 2015, the principal will be no longer employed by APS.

At the beginning of this school year, the district completed a grade changing investigation that started in the 2012-2013 school year at Washington High School. That investigation revealed that the principal gave preferential treatment to several students to elevate their class rankings. The principal resigned June 30, 2014. Even with the principal’s resignation, APS proceeded with the investigation in order to uncover any wrongdoing.

Additionally, a separate investigation at Washington concluded that an employee made an unauthorized change to a student’s transcript during the first semester of the 2014-2015 school year. APS terminated the employee on May 15.

APS has reported all certified employees involved in these investigations to the Professional Standards Commission. Additionally, following an inquiry from the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, APS sent three of these investigative reports to the DA on June 11.

The Washington High report on transcript modification was forwarded to the DA on June 12. While the DA did not specifically request the files, APS voluntarily provided the office with all information related to these cases.

The superintendent has insisted on complete transparency with all investigations and has directed her team to assist the DA with any questions he may have.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.