News

Actions

Problems with GradPoint led to resignations

Posted at 11:20 PM, Apr 25, 2016

The I-Team has been reporting about problems with the credit recovery program at Clearwater High School for months now, exposing evidence that grades were modified and students were given high marks they didn't earn in classes they needed to graduate.

Pinellas County Schools admitted they discovered fictitious grades but had no way of knowing who was responsible and never passed any of those along to the state.

New documents obtained by the I-Team shed light on who might be responsible for questionable grades in at least one case.

In February, we showed how someone used a teacher's login information to modify test scores, giving students who failed regular classes B's for semester-long courses they completed in days.

Pinellas County Schools spokeswoman Lisa Wolf said at the time that the school never sent the fictitious grades along to the state.

She admits, though, that they couldn't find the person responsible, because of the district's lack of safeguards.

“Because everyone's sharing the same log-in information, it's been hard to pinpoint exactly who's submitting these fictitious reports,” she said.

Records indicate only 13 teachers are GradPoint certified at Clearwater High.

More than half the students who take credit recovery classes at Clearwater High are assigned to Princess Watkins' classes.

Records the I-Team obtained through open records requests show 1,145 students enrolled in her classes during the past two years.

Some of them take credit recovery courses in multiple subjects.

In one class, 80 students share 25 computers.

Clearwater High School Principal Keith Mastorides says the rest of the students could take courses on school-owned Kindles or their own cellphones or tablets. 

But it's not just the class size that doesn’t add up here. It’s also the speed at which students are completing the classes.

The I-Team recently obtained a GradPoint course completion form with an attached list of pre-tests, chapter lessons and post-tests completed by a student.

Watkins’ signature appears to be on the form, in which the student is given credit for a semester-long economics class in just three days.

Records show the student failed 13 of 16 pre-tests, completed just three of the 40 lessons and never took any of the required post-tests.

The completion form shows the student received a "B" for the course.

We asked Watkins as she was leaving school whether she was responsible for any irregular GradPoint grades, and she denied it.

We later reached her by phone, and Watkins told us some students got permission from school administrators to take GradPoint classes on paper, which she says explains why certain lessons and tests appear to have been skipped on the computer.

Watkins has been disciplined in the past for issues unrelated to GradPoint.

Her 521-page discipline record says she got in trouble three years ago for sharing her computer password and login.

She also got a reprimand for awarding an exam grade to a student who didn't take the test, and, according to her record, she falsified grades in another class.

But when it came to the credit recovery investigation, Pinellas County Schools say they cleared Watkins and others of any wrongdoing. 

“It was addressed immediately both at the school level and at the district level as soon as it was known,” Wolf said in February.

But we recently obtained an email from a Clearwater High Schol teacher, which notified Assistant Principal Taylor Henderson about problems with GradPoint weeks before Watkins signed off on the economics grade, saying security issues "should be reformed in a very timely manner."

An email from another teacher notified Henderson a GradPoint student's grade was changed from a C to a B.

In response, Henderson said he'd "follow up with Mrs. Watkins to research."

Both teachers who wrote the emails resigned from participating in GradPoint.

Watkins wanted us to talk to Principal Matorides about the issue, but he has declined multiple opportunities to answer our questions about GradPoint.    

Wolf provided us with the following statement regarding the class completion form:  

“After a complete review, Pinellas County Schools found no instances of credit awarded to Clearwater High students that was not earned. Clearwater High School takes academic integrity seriously and is committed to student success."

If you have information about the credit recovery program you’d like to share with the I-Team, contact us at adam@abcactionnews.com