More than 18 months after allegations of fraud in graduation rates roiled a Maryland school system, state officials praised efforts to tighten grading and diploma procedures in the state’s second-largest school system.
Justin M. Hartings, president of the Maryland State Board of Education, lauded the work of officials from Prince George’s County as they appeared Tuesday before the board to discuss a second audit of graduation-related practices.
He took note of an assertion by Monica Goldson, interim schools chief executive in Prince George’s, that — after a lengthy overhaul of district procedures — the school system’s graduation and grading processes are among the best in the state.
“I would almost guarantee that that’s true, not only because of the seriousness of purpose that you clearly bring to addressing this but because your county has been scrutinized in a way that none other has,” Hartings said at a board meeting in Baltimore.
He said state officials would consider the lessons of Prince George’s as they considered accountability issues statewide.
“That diploma has to mean the same thing for every student who walks across the stage in the state of Maryland,” he said.
The reception to Prince George’s was far warmer than it was at a meeting nearly a year ago , when Kevin Maxwell, then the school system’s chief executive; Segun C. Eubanks, the school board chairman at the time; and other leaders were questioned about their diploma crisis.
State officials decided last February to seek periodic reports on the county’s progress in correcting course and to order a second independent audit.
The first audit found thousands of late grade changes, along with a number of graduates who were ineligible for diplomas or lacked proof they had met requirements.
More recently, in a report released in December, investigators found that Prince George’s had implemented more than two dozen recommended improvements. Others are in the works.
Attendance issues emerged as a remaining issue: An analysis of 1,085 members of the Class of 2018 found that more than 60 percent of students had excessive unexcused absences in one or more required courses. The findings would be expected to hold true across the Class of 2018, which had 7,273 students, it said.
On Tuesday, Goldson said the school system recognizes the importance of attendance and knows more must be done.
The system is monitoring chronic absenteeism, she said, and working on intervention strategies for frequently absent students.
“We know that a contributing factor to any student’s overall success is their daily presence and participation in class,” she said.
Prince George’s rewrote its attendance procedures for the 2018-2019 school year. Under the new rule, students get a zero for the day in classes they skip, and any assignments marked with a zero are averaged in with other grades.
The old rule was stricter, saying a student in middle or high school could fail a course for having more than five unexcused absences in a semester — or 10 in a year. Goldson said the county changed the policy after looking at practices in other school systems in the state.