Md. assistant principal disciplined amid grade-fixing allegations

WASHINGTON — As assistant principal is among several members of the staff at DuVal High School who’ve been removed from the school amid a grade-fixing controversy in the system.

The announcement comes in a letter to parents from Prince George’s County Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Maxwell, after a state audit brought the Lanham, Maryland, school’s graduation rates into question.

Those employees taken out of DuVal — as well as the school’s principal and registrar who were removed last year — have been placed on administrative leave. Acting principal John Brooks remains in place at the school.

“Mr. John Brooks will continue serving as acting principal through the end of the 2017-18 school year,” Maxwell told the school in the letter.

In 2016, the year DuVal had a 92 percent graduation rate, close to 7 percent of students shouldn’t have received their diplomas, according to the audit ordered by the Maryland State Department of Education. For another 27 percent, there wasn’t enough documentation to verify graduation eligibility.

In 2017, the audit found 16 percent of graduates couldn’t have their final standing verified, and 4 percent shouldn’t have received diplomas.

Investigators also heard from staff who claimed that grading policies were violated so that students could be offered additional chances to graduate.

“Due to evidence of intentional violations of those policies and procedures, changes to staff were made at the school,” said John White, a spokesman for Prince George’s County Public Schools.

The DuVal situation was part of a broader look that auditors took at high schools in the county, and graduation rate irregularities were also found at other schools.

Some staff members also alleged that pressure was put on teachers to help boost graduation rates.

In a May 2017 email from a DuVal guidance counselor to teachers, obtained by WTOP, students at risk of not graduating were listed, and the counselor wrote: “If there is any last minute, (rub a genie in a bottle), assistance you can help our future scholars, please assist.”

Some said the email showed pressure was being put on staff to pass students. Ed Burroughs, a member of the Prince George’s County Board of Education, took it one step further and said the pressure was being put on the school’s administration from the district level.

“I am waiting to see accountability in the senior staff level,” said Burroughs.

The school system denies that senior officials are to blame for what took place at the school.

Anna-Lysa Gayle

Anna-Lysa Gayle is an award-winning reporter and anchor, with five Emmy awards and more. Before joining WTOP, she spent nearly a decade as a TV news reporter for ABC and CBS news affiliates.

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