Baltimore City Schools pledges independent review of grading practices following state watchdog report

Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun/TNS
·2 min read

The Baltimore City school system is pledging an independent review of its grading procedures after Maryland’s education watchdog identified discrepancies in how grades were recorded in high schools.

City school officials announced plans this week to hire a third party to review grading during the upcoming 2022-23 school year. Leaders said last month they were fully committed to an audit after the Office of the Inspector General for Education published a report describing differing interpretations, applications and adherence to grade change procedures among high school staff from 2016 through the 2019-20 academic year.

The investigation centered largely on a practice of rounding up grades when a student was within one to three percentage points of a passing score, which is 60%. Officials identified more than 12,500 instances across the system where grades were changed from a fail to a pass between 2016 and the end of the 2019-20 school year.

School officials said there are many legitimate reasons to change grades. Students may work with their teacher to complete missing assignments or demonstrate their proficiency in a topic. Other reasons could include data entry errors or miscalculations.

However, investigators also found that some principals and assistant principals directed educators to automatically bump all 58% and 59% grades up to a passing grade, according to redacted emails included in the report.

The cost of the audit was not disclosed and city school representatives did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

School officials formally responded to the inspector general’s findings this week, stating the system began an overhaul of its grading policy in 2017, which led to policy revisions in 2019. The findings did not constitute a criminal violation of state law and the grades cited in the report constituted about 1% of all grades issued during the period of time reviewed, according to the statement.

Still, the report’s findings drew the attention of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who criticized the system and called for a criminal investigation into its grading practices.

Hogan said the report demonstrated a “staggering level of disregard for the integrity of the educational system and a clear lack of accountability at the highest levels.”

School officials’ response to the inspector general’s report included an open invitation to share grading policy information with other government entities. The system concurred there is “still more work to be done to fully and consistently implement these policy changes. City Schools is committed to doing this work.”