To fail or not to fail: That wasn’t the question at APS school where principal changed grades

Given that so many of her APS colleagues had their careers ruined two years earlier by allegations of cheating, former South Atlanta School of Law and Social Justice principal Charlotte Davis must have felt she had the fates on her side.

Citing an APS report, the AJC says Davis changed more than 100 student grades at her Atlanta Public Schools high school from failing to passing in the 2013-14 school year. Wielding the state public record laws, the AJC obtained an internal district report on the grade changing.

failingAmong the behaviors cited: Davis told teachers to pass students if they passed state End of Course Tests — even if they never came to class.

I found that allegation interesting as I’ve been at several legislative hearings where lawmakers discussed allowing high school students to “test out” of classes by passing the related EOCT.

I would be curious to know how many kids at the South Atlanta School of Law and Social Justice passed the EOCT without going to class. Those students seem less worrisome to me since they’re academically capable of passing a test on the entire course without ever attending classes.

I would also be interested in knowing how students who had grades changed in 2013-14 performed the following year. For instance, did some of the students fail because of low test scores, while others did so because they didn’t turn in assignments? There’s a difference; low-scoring students may not have understood the content. Those who didn’t turn in assignments may just be lazy.

Many teachers tell me they’re under tremendous pressure not to fail students. There are private schools in Atlanta that assure parents their children will end up HOPE eligible because every child is “taught to mastery.”

The wobbliness of grading systems is why I still support testing.

Anyway, here is some of the good stuff from the grade changing story by AJC reporter Molly Boom:

The changes meant students who had failed courses were not required to repeat them. Davis also routinely withdrew students from the school’s rolls in violation of state compulsory attendance laws. And she awarded passing grades to students enrolled in online classes, regardless of their performance, according to the report.

The grade changes came as APS placed greater emphasis on improving high school graduation rates — and as prosecutors prepared to take to trial the criminal case in the APS standardized test-cheating scandal.

Davis remained at the school for nearly an entire school year after teachers first reported the problems at South Atlanta. During that year, she retaliated against at least one of the teachers who complained about the grade changes by laying the teacher off, according to a district report.

“Once we discovered this incident, we acted swiftly to do a thorough investigation,” APS spokeswoman Jill Strickland said. “We didn’t want to take this lightly.”

South Atlanta School of Law and Social Justice was one of three “small schools” within South Atlanta High School created as part of an earlier APS initiative. The small schools at South Atlanta and other APS high schools will be phased out this coming school year.

In the 2013-14 school year, Davis told teachers they could not fail students, according to the report. Instead, they were to give students who “have not completed mastery” a grade of “P” — for progress. Rebecca Kaye, the district’s policy adviser, cleared the practice, Davis said. Kaye told the AJC she did advise Davis on grading policy in general but did not discuss the practice of awarding P’s to students.

After a district IT manager told Davis grades had to be entered as numbers, Davis changed the “P’s” to 70s, the lowest passing grade, according to the report.

Davis also told teachers to pass students if they passed state End of Course Tests — even if they never came to class. The tests are only supposed to count for up to one-fifth of a student’s grade. If teachers didn’t change the grades, Davis changed them herself, according to the report.

Davis also placed nine students in a computer-based math class supervised only by an intern, according to the report. She manipulated school records so it appeared they were still in a class with an actual teacher. At the end of the semester, Davis gave the students passing grades, even if they had not mastered the material. Davis told investigators she didn’t want students to lose credit for the course.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard’s office did not respond to questions about those violations. However, the Georgia teacher licensure commission has opened a case on Davis.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

56 comments
atln8tiv
atln8tiv

I have heard it said that The Wire does a good job of showing what K-12 public education these days is like. I don't teach that level, but based on what I know of it, I would have to say The Wire is on point. The issues are systemic, and not just systemic, but polysystemic.


This 10 minute compilation of scenes from The Wire explains some of the challenges public schools face:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Uonc7BEZ4g



Starik
Starik

@atln8tiv The Wire is simply amazing. It also accurately portrays the ghetto, the police in the ghetto, and racial politics.

atln8tiv
atln8tiv

Good news: The nation's high school graduation rate hit an all-time high of 81% in 2013!
Bad news: It increased because the requirements to graduate have been relaxed.

Here's a link to the story:
http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/06/10/412240568/raising-graduation-rates-with-questionable-quick-fixes


Wall Street cooks their books to imply success; and so does education. These practices must stop. However, then we will be forced to find real solutions to complex societal problems. And that's one that we, as a nation, are all failing.

GREYGHOST
GREYGHOST

Where have all the IDIOTS gone ?

Long time passing

Where have all the IDIOTS gone ?

Long time ago

Where have all the IDIOTS gone ?

Gone to UGA every one


When will they ever learn?


When WILL they ever learn ?


With apologies to Peter, Paul and Mary

An American Patriot
An American Patriot

Ignorant people will always vote democratic because of the entitlements.  This is why FDOE and the always ignorant Arne Duncan don't really care whether they pass.  A failing grade turns into a vote for democrats.  C'mon folks, it's pretty simple. Keep 'em dumb.

popacorn
popacorn

Tip of the melting iceberg. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Funny that this happened at the School of LAW and Social Justice.

Astropig
Astropig

@redweather @Wascatlady


But the law is decided by the governed,through their elected representatives."Social justice" is decided by dreamers and zealots that tend to be the most intolerant among us.

panthergir88
panthergir88

This practice is going on in lots of schools.  My son attends Lambert High School in Forsyth County (who brag that they have the highest graduation rate in the state).  When my son was in 9th grade, my neighbor's son was failing 2 classes required for graduation - 9th grade math and 9th grade English.  Every time he failed a math test, he was given all kinds of opportunities to raise his grade - test corrections, extra credit.  My son, who had a high B in the same class was never offered an opportunity to raise his grade.  When my neighbor questioned the math teacher as to why her son was given so many opportunities to raise his failing grade, the teacher replied "It is Lambert's policy never to fail or retain a student." 


At the end of the school year, the child still had failing grades in math and English.  My neighbor told me that the both teachers artificially bumped her son's grades to passing grades.

straker
straker

"teachers tell me the're under tremendous pressure not to fail students"


That's certainly not the way it was many years ago, when I was in school.


The Dumbing Down of America continues.

ScienceTeacher671
ScienceTeacher671

And "teaching to mastery" is a splendid idea, if done properly.  


Problem is, not everyone masters a subject in the same amount of time, and administrators do want them all to spend the same amount of time in each grade or subject....

ScienceTeacher671
ScienceTeacher671

It happens in other places, too. I'll bet half the kids got there in the first place because their grades were changed and/or they were "administratively promoted" from elementary and middle school.

gactzn2
gactzn2

@ScienceTeacher671 Sure does.  Happens everywhere.  Some teacher is always called to the office to discuss their failure rates.  SOME parents will even  come to the school in a huff and a tizzy when Johnny gets an F- which he worked hard for. They then complain to the principal (not the teacher) that they were never notified about Johnny's performance even though their contact information is outdated, not working, or erroneous.  Education is a one legged stool that rests on teachers and does not hold its other constituents accountable.  Student progress is not monitored at home oftentimes.

historydawg
historydawg

You cannot excuse changing of grades and administrators overriding teachers, but if we want to understand why she probably did this, we have to look to the system set up by the "reformers" in our legislature, who have weighted these poorly-written, poorly-designed multiple-choice exams above all else that happens in the classroom and passed laws/budgets that make meaningful learning impossible. The system in place demands positive data, which this principal was trying to produce. Her actions are a result of a system that undermines and undervalues learning. No one involved thinks very highly of learning: a principal changes grades, lawmakers set the precedent by awarding credit to students simply because a multiple-choice exam (designed to be minimal) was passed, system leaders allowed this practice to continue unpunished, and, most importantly, students don't attend class. We must vote for people who see education as more than a commodity (a view which causes such mess) and a box to be checked off a list, and we must train school leaders to be courageous, trustworthy, and respectful of the classroom.

ScienceTeacher671
ScienceTeacher671

@historydawg Not to mention, students don't have to pass the EOC to get credit in a class (it's only 20% of the total grade), the students who failed the minimum-competency GHSGT can now get diplomas anyway, and students who fail the not-even-minimum-competency CRCT have been socially promoted for years, all thanks to policies created by the Georgia General Assembly.  

gactzn2
gactzn2

@Astropig @ScienceTeacher671 @historydawg I partly agree- but this is by design to inject public money into corporate edupreneur's coffers, and falls in alignment with the conservative practice of capitalizing from "proposed" problems

JohnnyTooGood
JohnnyTooGood

This is why I am in support of testing.


Secondly, this gives more support to the statement: "high school diplomas are worthless".

eulb
eulb

This cheating principal was the leader of the "School of Law and Social Justice" ?  Sheesh!

flaneur_
flaneur_

It's modern "black privilege" to be able to operate in the most incompetent and corrupt fashion—without suffering exposure or consequence.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@flaneur_ If you think grade changing is "black privilege," talk to teachers in affluent white communities where parents are set on their kids attending top colleges and believe that B in calculus is the only thing holding them back.

I have a college classmate who teaches at a posh private in the northeast and she says, "Parents essentially are paying $33,000 for A's. As long as kids show up for class, they get good grades."

I have written about white parents who threatened lawsuits over grades.

Also, see comment above on top Forsyth County high school.


anothercomment
anothercomment

One of my soriety sister was told she could not return to Georgia State, after having a point 8 GPA, less than 1.0 . She graduated from highly ranked Decatur High and is white. She was on probation and not allowed to partake in soriety functions all spring either. They tried to encourage her to go to tutoring sessions. She was just ill prepared and gave up when the classes where hard.

She was not the only girl from a top school who couldn't keep her grades above soriety probation of 2.4. But she was told by GA state she had to sit out a year.

class80olddog
class80olddog

I heard that they were printing the APS diplomas on toilet paper now - so they would at least be useful for something.

redweather
redweather

@class80olddog Based on the many public school students enrolled in my freshman English classes, more school systems than APS are using toilet paper for diplomas.  

class80olddog
class80olddog

I am sure that Meria Carstarphen had "plausible deniability" - I did not know this was going on!!

Astropig
Astropig

@class80olddog


"I am sure that Meria Carstarphen had "plausible deniability" - I did not know this was going on!!"


Well, actually, she couldn't have known because she wasn't here yet (she was only hired last year and this stuff went on before she got here),but...


This IS a test of her leadership. This woman should have been suspended- without pay- YESTERDAY.Given what we now know from the APS cheating trial, it's hard to believe that Davis is the only one that may have done this,so Carstarphen could send a strong message to everyone there that there's a new sheriff in town. She could make an example of this woman so that there is no temptation to take shortcuts to success forthwith.

gactzn2
gactzn2

@Astropig @class80olddog Often in education- the greatest abuses occur during a change in leadership in central office.  Poor leaders will lie, cheat, and break every state and federal policy to advance their agenda before they claim ignorance of the law once caught.

class80olddog
class80olddog

When will the APS crowd realize one immutable fact: YOU CANNOT TEACH KIDS WHO DON'T WANT TO BE THERE AND WHOSE PARENTS DON'T CARE.  Any attempt is like trying to make that proverbial horse drink water.  Perform triage, and get the ones out that CAN be saved and let the rest rot.  Build more jails.


But to address the REAL root cause, you have to address the unwanted pregnancies and the mothers who only want their babies until age 5.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@class80olddog  "YOU CANNOT TEACH KIDS WHO DON'T WANT TO BE THERE AND WHOSE PARENTS DON'T CARE."


Actually, you can, but not always the way they attempt to do it in the public school system, and not always in ways public policy would allow or support.

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

The great APS at it yet again and the clueless mayor does absolutely nothing about it????  Governor Deal needs a state takeover of the APS just like he did in DeKalb

redweather
redweather

I suspect Molly Bloom has uncovered just the tip of the iceberg.  As for the school vouchers crowd, there is absolutely no reason to think this doesn't happen in charters and private schools.  If you believe those schools are immune to this sort of thing, you're delusional.

redweather
redweather

@class80olddog @redweather Why do you think charters and private schools would be closed if they were found guilty of the same thing?  Do you think parents of private school students would be agreeable to having their child/children held back?  Not likely.  "Taught to mastery" is a euphemism for making sure everyone graduates "on time."  

class80olddog
class80olddog

@redweather  You are right, redweather, I am sure this goes on in lots of places.  Look at the number of kids that fail their EOCTs and get promoted anyway (against Georgia law, but they use a loophole).  Look at the decision to get rid of the GHSGT that might show what cheating had taken place. 


At least with charter and private schools, if this came out, they would be closed.  How many APS schools get closed because of this?

ScienceTeacher671
ScienceTeacher671

@class80olddog @redweather It's not against the law to pass a student who fails an EOCT.  The General Assembly decreed that the EOCT score is only 20% of the final grade,so students don't have to pass them to get credit for the course.


Maybe you're thinking of the CRCTs, where the General Assembly also provided a loophole for students who don't pass?

redweather
redweather

@traderjoe9 @redweather  "Charter schools offer many of the same benefits as private schools, since they are free from the stranglehold of teachers’ unions."


We don't have teacher unions in Georgia, and I doubt we ever will.

Kvinnan2
Kvinnan2

When tuition vouchers finally arrive, their most important function will be to allow the grapevine to at last function to its full potential.

Putting an end to "secrets" which every neighborhood mother there probably knew.


anothercomment
anothercomment

While I suspect that this school has many children that should have been remediated prior to third grade. I find that we now have too many mandatory points of a child's grade to BS homework in Public School. I have one child that did all the homework and earned tons of bonus points to add to her quizz grades then at times even bonus points to exams and finals in High School. This included Honor and AP classes.

Then my other child who has a higher raw IQ of 140-150. She has stead fast refused to do her homework. Weather it is the ADHD and disorder she fights with her brain. Her papers end up a wad in her book bag either coming or going. It got to a point in public school where Homework was counting in some classes 30-40 %. What schools do not understand that when you have a child with ADHD, and I have been a good parent and have medicated my child, so my child is docile and quite in school. The medication only lasts about 8 hrs tops and then, I have a kid who is off the rails and very difficult to sit down to mindless hours of homework. Why does homework have such an outsized and one sized fits all impact. When there are kids who can skip it and ace it or do really well. Some of us do not need roat memorization to learn.

I have had to remove my child from the public school she is now in a small private school. The absolute maximum that homework ever counts is 10% of the class grade. That way a child can not be screwed by not doing their Homework. If they are like mine and can Ace the quizzes, tests and exams then they can still get an A. it maybe a risky past. First semester of last year a math teacher asked my daughter if she ever got a raw 100 on a Math final without any bonus points before. My daughter said she replied well I got a 99 on the Math IOWA test before. now my daughters method is not fool proof as she had an English teach substitute an essay for a test first semester. Somehow that essay went missing it cost my daughter two letter grades in her final grade. Despite her A or 94 on the final because she had a zero for a major test score.

traderjoe9
traderjoe9

@anothercomment  Ah, flexibility and teacher judgment. Something lacking or not permitted in public schools. Glad to hear your daughter is doing better. I hope you've explored dietary changes also.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@anothercomment  What is your child going to do when she gets to college and "homework" - study outside of class - is two-thirds of her learning? 

Astropig
Astropig

Well, since nobody on Wall Street went to jail for bad mortgages, we should just give Ms. Davis a pass. That seems to be the new standard here at GS - compare infractions by "educators"  to totally unrelated actions by people that we despise.


I'm sure she'll get a "good talking to" by our superstar superintendent, Meria Carstarphen.