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VOL. 132 | NO. 247 | Thursday, December 14, 2017

Hopson Says Grade-Changing Investigation Expands to Other Schools

By Bill Dries

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Outside auditors will review grade changing practices at seven high schools as Shelby County Schools broadens its investigation of transcript grade changes at Trezevant High School that showed “systematic academic improprieties” at the Frayser high school.

And the school system is looking at others who might have been involved in the Trezevant transcript changes starting with a compilation of rosters of school administrators from 2012 to 2016 at a high school that had a lot of turnover in its teacher and administrator ranks over those years.

SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson said Wednesday, Dec. 13, the auditors working with the school system’s auditors will do a thorough review of grade changes at seven high schools where the accounting firm Dixon Hughes Goodman found a percentage of average annual fail-to-pass transcript grade changes above the district annual average of 53 percent by ratio.

“The investigation is far from over,” Hopson said. “What we have also found in this process – obviously the focus was on what happened at Trezevant. But then the broader issue is is there really pervasive, inappropriate grade changing going on throughout the district?”

The independent investigation headed by former U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton raised that possibility.

The investigators will also be able to talk to school staff who made the grade changes.

The schools are Kirby, Raleigh-Egypt, Bolton, Westwood, White Station, Power Center Academy High Schools and Memphis Virtual School.

Arlington High School also had a percentage higher than the 53 percent average as well but is not a part of Shelby County Schools.

“I just want to be clear that to the extent that they find that there were inappropriate grade changes either made by people or directed by people then those people are going to be fired,” Hopson said. “That’s as clear as I can be. But I also want to make sure too that people don’t rush to judgment. What I’ve found in the past few days is that there are some schools that … if you fail a grade, come to school on Saturday and make up the work then the principal will adjust the grade. And that’s perfectly legal. There’s a process for that.”

He also said the grade changes at the other schools appear at the outset to be different than the timing and nature of the grade changes at Trezevant.

“That was absolutely the most egregious thing,” Hopson said referring to Trezevant specifically. “I don’t want to just say because there were schools with abnormally high grade changes they did something wrong. But if they did, we are not going to tolerate it.”

Hopson also said he is “angry and frustrated” over the results and conclusions in the report released Dec. 5. He also said he remains baffled by what the motive could be for the grade changes at Trezevant since it wasn’t limited to student-athletes and while it boosted the school’s graduation rate, there is no financial incentive for teachers or administrators from a higher graduation rate. And he says Trezevant’s graduation rate remained poor even with the percentage increase.

“When you have these bad apples, most importantly they have a terrible impact of kids and student outcomes and they also contribute to an erosion of the public trust in the district,” he said.

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