ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — According to a recent audit report, the Rochester School District has been inflating student grades through antiquated systems and ineffective practices.
The audit was first initiated after the School Board had several inquiries pertaining to graduation rates previously presented by former Superintendent Myers-Small. She requested the Office of Auditor General perform an audit on the operating practices surrounding RCSD graduation data.
The findings from that audit were presented during a board committee meeting on September 13. While the report concluded the inaccuracies did not improperly affect the district’s graduation rate, there are several changes being recommended.
According to a report from the district’s internal auditor, Anissa Henry-Wheeler, GPAs were inflated in two ways. First by using a 4.5 scale, rather than the commonly used 4.0 scale.
Certain course work was also “weighted” such as Regents or AP level classes. While that is a more common practice, the Rochester district saw several inconsistencies.
“Regents classes were receiving additional value. My struggle with that, as a decision, was students are expected to take Regents classes so why are you getting credit for something you already should be doing,” says District auditor Anissa Henry-Wheeler.
School Board leadership did not mince words when it came to reacting to the findings.
“Somebody needs to go to jail on this. To have these kinds of scorings where our children believe, and our families are believing that our students are achieving and we’ve lied to them,” says School Board President, Cynthia Elliot.
“And I’m not saying necessarily anybody who may be employed by the district at this point, but somewhere in the past there were decisions that were made that were against the academic achievements of our students for whatever reason. And this is really egregious,” Elliot added.
The other way GPAs were inflated, according to the audit, was due to the district incorporating a “hold harmless” policy at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, which protected students from receiving a grade lower than a D in the third quarter of the 2019-2020 school year. It also prevented students from earning a failing grade for the final quarter, which had a pass/fail scale.
This was a district policy, not in alignment with the State Department of Education, where students may have received passing marks.
District leadership, now under Superintendent Dr. Carmine Peluso, spoke about plans to address the issues.
“Right now, immediately, it’s taking a look at numeric grades. We have a plan here to split this team up into two teams, an Operation Team and an Instruction Team, and our timelines are pretty aggressive to have things in place by January,” says Superintendent Dr. Carmine Peluso.
Several board members discussed the need for greater communication with parents and guardians, helping them to also understand the way the system works.
Additionally, the audit concluded the district’s course catalog system, powered by Power-School Student Management System, should be evaluated for accuracy and completeness.
Overall, there were nearly 30 separate recommendations for changes as a result of the audit.