On the heels of a third stellar high school graduation season Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell, is defending himself against allegations by members of the county’s school board that indicate that the system routinely fixed grades and gave credit to students for classes and class work never mastered.
The claims, brought by four board members: Edward Burroughs; David Murray; Raaheela Ahmed; and student member Juwan Blocker and substantiated in part by some parents, were addressed in a letter to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. The letter listed allegations that hundreds of students had courses added to their records; grades were changed without teachers’ consent; and students received credit for service learning hours that they had not earned – all in an effort to boost graduation rates.
Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Kevn Maxwel. (Photo/whitehouse.gov)
“Much to our anger and extreme disappointment, and that of a majority of the Board of Education, a handful of Prince George’s County Public Schools community members have made baseless accusations about our high school graduation rates,” Maxwell said at a press conference on June 20. “Allegations that we systemically engaged in unethical practices are false, play to the worst suspicions about our school system and disparage all of us.”
Still the claims that corruption in PGCPS went as far back as 2014 and include hundreds of students who received diplomas despite having failed to meet state requirements for graduation, has some parents up in arms.
“Education is a process and no one wins if there is cheating,” Seat Pleasant resident Reynoldo Simmons told the AFRO. “My grandson graduated two years ago from Roosevelt, and we all figured it was a blessing to have him get some type of degree, but now he’s in community college taking remedial courses in everything. I love him, but he should have been held back a couple of times.”
Simmons’ concerns are shared by other families whose children earned failing marks on classwork, but passing grades on report cards. State data shows that four-year graduation rates in Prince George’s County improved from 74.1 percent for the class of 2013 to 81.4 percent for the class of 2016. That jump was the largest for that time-period of any school system in the state.
“These claims are an affront to the hard work of our teachers, administrators, students and parents over the last few years,” Maxwell said in a statement. “I categorically deny any systemic effort to promote students who did not meet state graduation requirements.”
Nine other school board members denounced the allegations in a letter and directed fellow board members to apologize and resign if an investigation fails to return evidence of widespread corruption or if an investigation isn’t justified.
“The claim that folks are pushing students out is false,” board member K. Alexander Wallace told Fox 5 DC. “We’re pushing our students to be the best that they can be.”
Maxwell pointed to a January report that cleared the school system of fraud accusations. “The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), at the direction of the U.S. Department of Education, conducted an investigation into the county’s graduation rates in the wake of an anonymous complaint that alleged the Chief Executive Officer had ’forced educators to change the grades of ninth and twelfth grade students in order to boost promotion and graduation rates,” he said in a statement.
As stated in the report, the investigation determined “there was not anything done to indicate grades had been manipulated nor that bullying had been used to ensure more students were being promoted or graduated.”