I-Team: Police and district investigated reports of cheating involving GradPoint at another school

Largo Police officer investigated after complaints
Posted at 6:57 PM, Oct 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-04 18:57:49-04

On Monday, our I-Team reported that Pinellas County Schools has launched an investigation into possible cheating involving GradPoint, the district's credit recovery program, at Clearwater high.

 But we also discovered that’s not the first time the district and police have investigated possible GradPoint cheating.

 The sign at Pinellas Gulf Coast academy says "Graduation is closer than you think".

 But according to the school's former resource officer, graduation came much sooner than should have been possible.

 A police report says students got credit through GradPoint for courses which should have taken six weeks in just 2 or 3 days.

 In June 2015, Largo Police investigated after students reported faculty were "cheating to help them graduate" through GradPoint.

  The report said a teacher "has been handing out answer packets" and  “supplying students with passwords".

 Largo Police referred the case to the Pinellas County Schools Office of Professional Standards, which prepared an 84-page, mostly hand-written report.

 The report says Pete LaVenia, who oversees security for the GradPoint program and makes sure it is being used properly, discovered a student took an online test and scored a 20.

 That student then took every other test in the course using pencil and paper, scoring an 86 every time.

 “Teachers are taught to note that in the system, that the student either had a paper/pencil type of assignment or assessment or that they were given some type of verbal assessment or assignment in place of completing,” said Michelle Topping, Director of the Pinellas County Educational Alternative Services, which oversees GradPoint.

 But LaVenia found no evidence of any work for multiple tests, which were completed just minutes apart. 

 In an email in the investigative file, a student asks a teacher to excuse him from a test,  to which the teacher replied "done" .

 In another email, a student asks the teacher to pass him for multiple tests so he can graduate on time. The teacher replied "call me",  giving the student his home phone number. 

 “We believe the processes could be improved there,” said Pinellas County Schools Spokesperson Lisa Wolf.

 The report also showed LaVenia discovered a student received credit after "he was excused of all work, no reason given and never took the final".

 “There was nothing that could be substantiated by our office of professional standards that would indicate cheating,” said Wolf.

 The district closed the case as unsubstantiated, less than a month after it began. 

 If you have information about issues with the Pinellas County credit recovery program, contact us at