- The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is launching an investigation into possible grade-fixing in one of its high school’s credit recovery programs, EdSource reports.
- Two former teachers filed complaints against the district this summer, alleging educators, including the school’s former principal, were falsifying student records to show students had passed courses that they had actually failed or never taken. So far, the district has found no evidence to support the claims but plans to hire an outside investigator to audit all student records from the past five years.
- Online credit recovery programs, such as this one, have previously raised questions about whether students are learning the material with adequate oversight, according to the article.
If the allegations against OUSD prove to be true, the district would become the latest culprit in a string of cheating scandals in recent years, including in the state of California, that have cast doubt on whether the country’s supposedly high graduation rate can be trusted — and whether the stakes are simply too high.
Just last year, an investigation into inflated graduation rates in the District of Columbia Public Schools showed misuse of credit recovery programs, such as the one at the center of the controversy in OUSD, were partly to blame. Many schools were letting students earn credits through these programs at the same time that they were taking the course, even though district policy only allowed for use of credit recovery if students failed.
As reported in 2018, high school teachers and principals in D.C. are evaluated partly on student course completion and graduation rates. “With those kinds of stakes, teachers can feel immense pressure to award passing grades to students who haven’t earned them, a dilemma that intensifies in schools with high rates of chronic absenteeism and academically struggling students.”
Similar pressures are thought to have driven the educators involved in the high-profile Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal to change student test scores. Education Dive reported previously that the consensus in the aftermath of it all seemed to be “that current testing policies have created a climate where high scores must be acquired in any way possible.”
The new era of education policy under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) could see some of those pressures alleviated, however, though only time will tell. As the Center for American Progress explains it, the previous No Child Left Behind law “relied heavily upon a pass/fail system to measure school performance based on targets for test scores and graduation rates.” ESSA, however, calls for a broader evaluation of student success.
Experts recommend that students in credit recovery programs be required to take the same exams as students in regular courses and that students earn a minimum score in the regular course before taking it a credit recovery program.