Investigation launched after I-Team obtains email saying "Clearwater has been cheating for years"

Teachers tell I-Team cheating concerns reported
Posted at 10:46 AM, Oct 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-03 10:56:13-04

As your kids are starting the new school week, some school leaders are looking into possible cheating, first uncovered by the ABC Action News I-Team.

The accusations of cheating at Clearwater High School involve GradPoint, the Pinellas County School District's credit recovery program.

The I-Team has uncovered new evidence that district employees knew about the problem for years.

“It's ethically and morally wrong,” said a Clearwater High School Teacher earlier this year, who didn’t want to be identified because of fear of retaliation.

She said she is fed up with massive cheating involving the school’s credit recovery program.

“Students completed a year's worth of work within days, sometimes as little as two days, receiving an "A" or 'B",” the teacher said.  

Dozens of documents we obtained from whistle blowers and provided to the district showed students receiving "80"s in almost every class.

80 is the minimum score to get GradPoint credit at Clearwater High School.

In some cases, teachers changed grades minutes after students failed tests.  

Michelle Topping oversees GradPoint for Pinellas County Schools and says she’s 100 percent confident in the program.

We asked her about records we received from the district showing that a Clearwater High School Gradpoint class had 80 students enrolled in a single class period, even though there were only 25 computers and desks in the classroom.

“I don't know how you could have 80 students in a lab if there's only 25 seats,” Topping said.

When pressed about it, she said she was not aware of the situation.

District spokesperson Lisa Wolf originally told us that students could use Kindles and their own devices to take the GradPoint classes rather than the computers.

She late said those students were enrolled in other classes after they completed GradPoint, so they would not be roaming the halls.

Wolf claims the district looked at GradPoint problems before the I-Team's earlier reports and found no wrongdoing.

“There was no credit awarded to students that was not earned,” Wolf said during a recent interview.

But now the district is conducting a full audit of GradPoint, after an email from the head of GradPoint security turned up in our open records request saying "Clearwater has been cheating for years".

Tonight at six, in our full investigation, hear from a teacher who decided to quit, so she didn't have to sign off on these grades any more.