From The Trussville Tribune staff reports
MONTGOMERY –In a statement released on Thursday, the Alabama State Department of Education admitted state graduation rates reported to U.S. Department of Education were false, resulting in diplomas that “were not honestly earned.”
It is not known if the admission will affect local high schools. The Trussville Tribune has reached out to Dr. Pattie Neill at Trussville City Schools, Michael Lee at Clay-Chalkville High School and Michael Turner at Pinson Valley High School. None of the three had responded prior to publication, but the story will be updated with their comments when received.
The USDE had been investigating Alabama’s grad rate since the state jumped to the third highest on the nation last year.
According to the statement, the ALSDE has determined, after completing an initial audit, that the graduation rate was misstated to the people of Alabama – policymakers, educators, parents, students, all citizens – and to the USDE.
“We are accountable to all people of this state and deeply regret the misstating of our graduation rate, Superintendent of Education Michael Sentance said. “We are now undergoing a meticulous review to ensure that all monitoring and data collection is performed with fidelity.
“The ALSDE did not monitor local systems with the necessary scrutiny. This was an internal, administrative oversight and the ALSDE is now in the process of addressing all related areas. The ALSDE has reviewed related protocols, increased training of staff, and is organizationally restructuring. We will be establishing an internal audit unit to ensure protocols and procedures are followed. We will also continue to work within the USDE.”
According to ALSDE, there are two components that were factors in the misstated rate:
1. The counting of the Alabama Occupational Diploma (AOD) – This diploma was not anchored to the standards required for graduation and students who received the AOD could not be counted by the USDE as a graduate in the USDE Four-Year Cohort graduation rate.
2. Low Oversight of Local School Systems’ Awarding of Credits – The ALSDE did not increase oversight as needed of local school systems’ awarding of earned class credits. In some cases, local school systems misstated student records and awarded class credit, resulting in diplomas that were not honestly earned.
The inflated rates were reported under the watch of former state superintendent Tommy Bice.