AL Department of Education admits wrongdoing in schools' grade i - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

AL Department of Education admits wrongdoing in schools' grade inflations

Superintendent Michael Sentance responding to questions from political reporter Michael Doudna (Source: WAFF) Superintendent Michael Sentance responding to questions from political reporter Michael Doudna (Source: WAFF)
(WAFF) -

The Alabama State Department of Education admits academic numbers reported to the public from state public schools have not been accurate.

The graduation rates were lower than state officials reported to students, parents, politicians and the federal government.

The report, which is the result of an internal audit, found faults with two different reporting mechanisms.

First, the state school system admits to poor oversight of awarding credits.

The audit found that some local school systems, which have not been named, misstated student records and inappropriately awarded class credits in order to allow students to graduate.

“It’s wrong, what they did was wrong. What they did in terms of students, those students were victims, those that earned what they thought were credible diplomas,” said State Board Member Stephanie Bell.

A spokesperson for the Birmingham City Schools said they have not seen the state’s report so it would be premature for them to comment.

The State Department of Education does not award grades, however, it is responsible for compiling data from school systems to provide reports to federal offices.

Second, the audit found that recipients of an Alabama Occupational Diploma should not be counted in the four-year graduation rate. The reasoning is because the diploma does not meet the same standards required for graduation.

The Alabama Occupational Diploma offers workforce and job-seeking skills to students with disabilities or special needs.

Alabama's graduation rate reportedly rose to record 89% earlier this year. The jump was a seeming major boost considering the state's graduation rate was 72 percent in 2012.

The graduation rate numbers were provided by the Alabama State Department of Education.

“We are accountable to all people of this state and deeply regret the misstating of our graduation rate. We are now undergoing a meticulous review to ensure that all monitoring and data collection is performed with fidelity,” said Superintendent of Education Michael Sentance.

The entire case remains under the review of the United States Department of Education.

Gov. Robert Bentley was briefed on the findings and released the following statement:

I was alarmed and disappointed to learn the numbers have been reported incorrectly to the U.S. Department of Education, to parents, to Legislators and my Office. When Superintendent Sentence was chosen to lead the Department of Education, he committed to increasing student achievement in Alabama. I appreciate the efforts of Superintendent Sentance and the members of the Alabama State Board of Education effort in working to identify problems as well as solutions, on state and local levels. Our Alabama children need and deserve the best education our leaders can offer. I am confident Superintendent Sentance and members of the Board of Education will see to it that happens.

Sentance says several school districts are believed to have inflated graduation rates, specifically naming Birmingham Schools as a focus of federal inquiry.

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