In a complaint originally filed by the now-defunct Maryland Office of Education Accountability, the Baltimore City Public Schools were alleged to have advanced thousands of students who did not meet the grade requirements for progressing to the next year.
According to the complaint, teachers were pressured by school administrators at the top of the city’s educational hierarchy to change the grades of failing students to passing.
The Office of Inspector General for Education, which took over the case, was able to confirm the allegations and issued a report on June 7.
In total, 12,542 grades were changed with 11% of those changes taking place at Patterson High School.
Governor Larry Hogan is now asking the U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland and the Maryland state prosecutor to launch a full criminal investigation into the scheme:
“In its final report, the Inspector General confirmed the existence of a massive grade-fixing scheme in Baltimore City Public Schools, documenting thousands of instances of wrongdoing and systemic problems. The report reveals a staggering level of disregard for the integrity of the educational system and a clear lack of accountability at the highest levels. For years, the school system has denied and dismissed allegations of grade fixing, and tried to sweep it all under the rug. None of this should be allowed to happen in any school system, let alone in one of the most highly funded large school systems in America. All involved in this culture of corruption must be held accountable.”
The findings culminate a three-year controversy stemming from a 2019 local media report that accused the public school system of improperly changing grades to reduce the rate of failure and retention. At the time, BCPS responded by explaining grades can be changed for a variety of legitimate reasons such as make-up work or the inclusion of work submitted through alternative programs for students on long-term medical leave.
OIGE found this explanation wanting and noted that over 80% of the grade changes were made to failing students in order to push through the threshold of a passing mark.
“This percentage of grade changes made to the minimum passing grades indicates a statistical likelihood that many of these grade changes were not for valid reasons,” according to the report.
During the course of their investigation, OIGE discovered that faculty were advised by North Avenue personnel, the headquarters of BCPS, to change the grades of students who received a 58 or 59 to the minimal passing grade. Teachers were pressured by principals and, in turn, principals were pressured by the top rungs of the school district bureaucracy.