Prince George’s County school leaders say they are tightening controls on student records, upgrading technology to improve graduation certification and rethinking credit recovery programs that allow students to make up for work they have failed.

The efforts are part of a plan to address problems cited during an investigation of alleged grade-tampering and fraud in graduation rates in Maryland’s second-largest school system.

Kevin Maxwell, the system’s chief executive, sent a letter to parents late Tuesday with highlights of district improvements that are in the works. A fuller presentation is expected Dec. 19. Prince George’s must submit a plan to state officials by month’s end.

Last month, state officials released a report done by independent investigators that showed grades for nearly 5,500 students in the Prince George’s system were changed days before graduation during the past two years.

The 211-page report pointed to rampant lapses in documentation and nearly 60 instances of students being ineligible to graduate, but did not find that tampering was ordered by the district’s leadership.

The Maryland State Board of Education is expected to consider the Prince George’s plan in January.

Here is the letter sent by the school system:

Dear Parents and Guardians:

In preparing students for higher education and workplace opportunities, our work must start with academic integrity, clear accountability and adequate supports.

Since the release last month of state audit findings regarding graduation rates in Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), my leadership team has been working with our fellow educators and administrators to improve our practices and policies around record-keeping, credit recovery programs and grade changes. We take the audit findings seriously. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken in instances of egregious violations of policy compliance.

Over the last several weeks, we have reviewed the recommendations and our own data across schools and departments. This letter is to provide you with an update on our work towards greater accountability, oversight and transparency:

• Grades and Transcripts: Prior to the start of the current school year, we implemented stricter controls regarding access to student records. The number of grade and transcript managers for each school has been reduced to two. We have begun running quarterly grade change reports to identify irregularities and where there may be an excessive number of changes.

• Credit Recovery Programs: Quarterly Learning Modules (QLMs) have been eliminated as an option for credit recovery. We continue to review options for future Multiple Pathways to Success program offerings.

• Staff Training and Support: Grade and transcript managers have attended mandatory training. Professional school counselors have received additional time to update all student records for graduation certification.

• Technology Upgrades: We are in the final stages of creating an online grade change process to improve accuracy. We are also upgrading our technology (i.e., SchoolMAX) to improve graduation certification.

• Communications: Details on the audit findings were made available on various platforms, including emessages, information sheets, parent newsletter articles, social media and the PGCPS website (www.pgcps.org/graduation-audit).

Our formal response to the audit will be presented at the next meeting of the Prince George’s County Board of Education, scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 19 at the Sasscer Administration Building in Upper Marlboro. The meeting is open to the public. Our response is due to the Maryland State Department of Education by the end of the month.

Increasing the number of high school graduates is the right goal. Diplomas matter and academic integrity provides a foundation for public confidence in our schools. We appreciate your continued support.

Kevin M. Maxwell, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer