Late Wednesday night, the Rhode Island Department of Education released a report on its investigation into allegations of grade inflation at a Providence school.
The findings, which came around 11 p.m., said no evidence of inflation was uncovered, but the agency also didn’t find much evidence of the student labor needed to graduate.
RIDE said Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green learned in July of allegations that students at A-Venture Academy, a school that serves as an alternative option for struggling students in traditional schools, had received inflated grades and unearned credits that allowed them to graduate.
According to the report, the allegations related to seven out of 11 students who received diplomas in June. These students, who transferred from Mount Pleasant High School, were part of the academy’s overage/undercredited program, otherwise known as OAUC, which helps give students a pathway to college. Graduation.
RIDE says there is no evidence of inflation, but record keeping is below average
RIDE said its investigation determined that all credits were properly awarded, but Providence Public School District teachers are not required to save student work that would substantiate the grades that earned them the credits. For the most part, the work of the seven students mentioned in the report was not available to corroborate their grades, RIDE said.
Therefore, the report states that it “relies almost exclusively on the testimony of A-Venture students, teachers, and/or coordinators.”
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Only one student was interviewed for the report, according to RIDE’s list of 21 interviewees. The rest were mostly teachers and people in leadership positions.
The report acknowledges that A-Venture’s record keeping was poor, stating that “to label the records maintained by the OACU program as sparse would be generous”.
RIDE attempts to explain the credits, which students have accumulated rapidly in some cases, as partly the result of “credit extraction”, a process that extracts records for any partial credit that may be awarded for previous work in classes where they failed or did not complete. After this process, the classes that a student needs to make up or “recover” are identified.
RIDE said Deputy Commissioner Lisa Odom-Villela reviewed students’ “school records” and felt this was possible through the program’s use of credit extraction, pretests, projects/experiments. learning and teachers’ ability to skip modules in the given course syllabus. “
But again, the records, for the most part, cannot support this.
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In information on its website, RIDE’s high school graduation requirements call for “completion of a performance-based credential assessment (graduating portfolio, student exhibits, senior project and/or capstone product)”. The Providence Journal asked RIDE why such documents did not exist and was referred to the report.
While the report states that in May, Providence Public School District Director of Alternative Learning, Marc Catone, viewed “files containing completed student projects and grades,” the report later states that Much of the student work was not available for review. The Journal sought clarification from RIDE and was again referred to the report.
As part of its recommendations listed in the report, RIDE said course work should be done online and that program coordinators should retain project-based work for one year after graduation or deregistration. .
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According to RIDE, changes already underway in the Providence Public School District include the use of electronic gradebooks, properly coded A-Venture courses that can be “clearly tracked on the transcript” and a manual on program requirements and grade entry requirements. RIDE said the district is “reviewing and updating its district-wide criteria for all credit recovery courses and will provide training to all high school guidance counselors regarding this program.”
Providence school board members want independent investigation
Next week, a Senate oversight hearing will be held on the matter. RIDE spokesman Victor Morente said lawyer Charles Ruggerio, who submitted the report, will be present.
In August, Providence School Board members Ty’Relle Stephens, Jesus Nunez and Night Jean Muhingabo called for an independent investigation rather than an investigation by RIDE.
On Thursday, they reiterated their call.
“We would like to know if no one has done anything wrong, why can’t this be proven by an independent investigation?” the members said in an emailed statement. “We received [too] many [complaints] of retaliation for trusting the outcome of this investigation. We support an independent investigation by an external provider, a reputable law firm, and will stop at nothing. We sincerely hope that the Commissioner [Infante-Green] will do what it takes.”
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In a lengthy statement, Infante-Green cited the problems as evidence of why she believes the state takeover of public schools was necessary.
“This investigation highlights years where the district lacked a consistent process for documenting student grades and the system will not be allowed to continue without cohesion and accountability,” Infante-Green said. “Unfortunately, after decades of dysfunction in the PPSD, we continue to uncover and address long-standing systemic issues like this every day. This case is yet another reminder to everyone why the state had to step in. primarily to improve the district and student outcomes.”
In remarks released Thursday, Council on Elementary and Secondary Education Chair Patti DiCenso praised the investigation, calling the allegations about A-Venture “unsubstantiated” and “inflammatory.”
“As Chairman of the Council, I speak for the whole group in sharing that we are not interested in playing politics – we are focused on working collaboratively to ensure that some of the most vulnerable people of Providence have the opportunity to succeed.”