WASHINGTON - According to an open records request, Prince George’s County Public Schools has stopped monitoring its graduation rate numbers, a marked deviation from past years where there was intense focus on boosting the numbers.
FOX 5 requested “any documents that detail how many students are on track to graduate from each high school,” but was told those documents don’t exist and schools are “choosing how to monitor their progress.”
It comes after record-high graduation numbers in the county were called into question following a state audit that found students graduated without meeting requirements.
“This year, we are focusing more on the people behind the percentages,” said Prince George's County Public Schools spokesperson John White. “We will know at the end of the year if we have succeeded.”
When asked if there is any sense what the numbers will be, White reiterated that the central office is not looking at the numbers or percentages.
It is a shift from years past when projected graduation rates were tracked meticulously at every high school.
An open records request for documents from last year show every high school had a graduation rate goal, some as high as 95 percent. School principals received worksheets so they knew exactly how many students needed to graduate to meet the goal. Schools had to submit the number of students on track to graduate multiple times before graduation day to a data analyst in the deputy superintendent’s office. According to emails obtained by FOX 5, the numbers were monitored closely. One email details a meeting to “strengthen” graduation predictions.
The end of last school year was when FOX 5 began investigating claims that grades and records were being changed to boost the graduation rate. A state audit later showed widespread policy violations when it came to grading and graduating students.
White said there is a different mindset this year when it comes to the graduation rate.
“There is definitely a difference,” he said. “After the audit, we saw what was working, what was not working and where we need to make improvements.”
FOX 5 visited Frederick Douglass High School in Upper Marlboro on Tuesday, a school that has had a graduation rate in the 90 percentile for at least the last three years.
Principal Eddie Scott said it was too early to say what the graduation rate could be in May.
“Ninety percent would be great. I’m really not thinking any percentage right now,” Scott said. “It’s really about making sure the students are learning the content, that students prepare for the upcoming PARCC assessments, that students are passing.”
He said there is also an increased focus on making sure records are accurate.
“Making sure the teachers understand the grading policy, making sure grading policies are communicated not only with our teachers but also the parents and students,” said Scott.
White said graduation numbers for the class of 2017-2018 will not be released until Jan. 2019 when the state releases graduation data for each county. Through open records requests, we anticipate finding out the numbers before that time.
FOX 5's coverage on the Prince George's County grade-fixing investigation: