Chief Executive Officer / Interim CEO's Remarks on Graduation Rates Audit to the State Board of Education
  • Interim CEO's Remarks on Graduation Rates Audit to the State Board of Education

    Interim CEO's Remarks on Graduation Rates Audit to the State Board of Education

    Remarks to the State Board of Education
    Dr. Monica Goldson, Interim Chief Executive Officer
    Prince George’s County Public Schools
    January 22, 2019

    Good afternoon, President Hartings, Vice-President Iszard, Maryland State Board of Education Members and Superintendent Salmon.  I am Dr. Monica Goldson, Interim Chief Executive Officer for Prince George’s County Public Schools. Joining me today are Dr. Alvin Thornton, Chair of the Prince George’s County Board of Education, and Vice Chair Edward Burroughs, III. Thank you for providing me an opportunity to address the 2018 Independent Performance Audit for Prince George’s County Public Schools and allowing Alvarez & Marsal to return to PGCPS to monitor the implementation of the recommendations presented in January 2018 for the 2017-2018 school year.

    As a parent, teacher and now leader of our system, I want to restore trust, accountability, transparency and academic excellence to Prince George’s County Public Schools.  Our staff approached the issues raised in the original audit with a sense of urgency, a commitment to compliance, and a better understanding of policies and procedures. We are pleased that our work showed significant improvements and we will tackle the attendance issues with the same sense of urgency.

    Every student who graduates from a Prince George’s County Public School must be adequately prepared for higher education, the workplace and beyond. This is the basic promise our school system makes to our community and our students.

    Unfortunately, in recent years we have fallen short of meeting this basic requirement. We did not live up to our commitment to do what was right for our students. But over the last year we have taken several important steps to greatly improve confidence in our diploma and accuracy in grading, which was evidenced by the 28 fully implemented recommendations.

    In August 2018, a new Chief of Accountability position was created to apply rigorous data analytics to Administrative Procedure adherence related to grading, grade changes, attendance and academic achievement going forward.

    We have implemented new processes for monitoring grade changes and weekly grade input reports, including a review of the number of grades entered per week, missing category grade reports and excessive absences. We enacted stricter controls on access to student records, limited the number of staff members authorized to make grade changes and eliminated the use of Quarterly Learning Modules (QLMs) as an option for credit recovery. We provided professional school counselors with additional time to update all student records for graduation certification and mandatory training for grade and transcript managers. We moved the paper grade change process to an online module for better accuracy, monitoring and accountability. We provided ongoing professional development to our professional school counselors, administrators and teachers to ensure all employees that serve and support our students understand our new grading and attendance policies to achieve full compliance with administrative procedures.

    And, we improved communication with staff and parents about grading procedures and grade change request deadlines.

    For the 10 recommendations that were partially implemented and the two recommendations that were not, we have already begun the process of addressing them with specific changes to improve how we promote students to the next grade, certify their graduation requirements, and evaluate student performance. I have also provided a detailed response to those 12 recommendations after reviewing the last SBOE meeting again to ensure your questions from the previous meeting on this topic are addressed.

    Our efforts have moved Prince George’s County Public Schools in the right direction regarding the certification of students for graduation, as the most recent audit shows:

    • We have nearly eliminated issues with graduating students who have not met transcript or service learning requirements.

    • We significantly reduced the degree to which grade changes were used and misused.

    • And importantly, we increased awareness of and compliance with administrative procedure (AP) and state requirements.

    An increased emphasis on attendance during this most recent audit that shows that we must do more to provide sufficient oversight and support to enforce attendance accountability.

    Along with updating our grading policies, at the auditor’s recommendation, we also updated our attendance policy and are now providing more oversight and support to enforce attendance policies and their impact on grades. We know that a contributing factor to any student’s overall success is their daily presence and participation in class. This school year, Prince George’s County Public Schools is monitoring each school’s chronic absentee rate, student by student, class by class and school by school. We are working collaboratively to implement intervention plans and strategies if a child is absent four days in a quarter, nine days in a semester, or 18 days in a school year. We are employing the same sense of urgency and best practices that we used to address the grading and graduation issue to ensure the accuracy of attendance information.

    I am confident today that our graduation and grading process is among the best in the state of Maryland.  We will remain vigilant and ensure that the progress we made last year continues so our students, staff and community can continue to be proud of PGCPS.