State Superintendent on Grade Investigation: Next Step is Up to MPS

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By Heather VacLav

The State Board of Education will be waiting on the Montgomery school system to make the next move in the grade change investigation.

State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice says Montgomery Public Schools needs to file an “institutional control plan” to fix the grade changing investigation by Christmas.

“So basically it’s in their court now, the State Department of Education does not have a role in that process, from this point forward until something comes back to us,” Bice said.

Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Thompson says the investigation showed some 200 Montgomery students had their grades changed by seven school officials at Lanier, Robert E. Lee and Jeff Davis high schools.

Thompson’s office released the following statement Thursday morning in response to the investigation and planning process:

"Montgomery Public Schools is committed to academic integrity. We are working directly with Dr. Bice and the Department of Education as we continue the process to correct the actions of a few individuals who apparently ignored MPS policies. We are following the steps set forward by the SDE to ensure this matter is brought to a quick resolution and protections put in place to safeguard against similar problems in the future."

After confusion surrounding whether or not teachers were involved, Bice confirmed classroom teachers were not guilty of changing grades, but those MPS employees found guilty are on paid administrative leave.

When asked if Superintendent Thompson should be held accountable, Bice said he would not comment on the matter, but he did say: “Institutional control starts at the top and works its way down.”

Montgomery County Board of Education member Ella Bell spoke out about the investigation at the end of a work session Thursday, saying her district deserves better.

Calling it an “absolute travesty” Bell said the investigation is not over.

“The problem is that we have created an environment where we have to consider doing these kinds of things for whatever reason,” Bell said. “Our children ought to be educated to the point where a situation like this never has to occur.”

Bell says she will ask Bice privately to investigate other issues in Montgomery schools, but until a plan is submitted, Bice says the state is staying “neutral.”

“I know ya'll are wanting me to say takeover, and I'm not going to because that’s not the intent of this,” Bice said when asked if the State Department of Education would intervene.

“We didn’t enter into this to take over the Montgomery Public school system,” he said explaining he has no reason to take over MPS at the present time.

Superintendent Thompson said the school district is not telling students if their grades were changed, but Bice indicated he hopes MPS includes it in their plan.

Even though the state wrapped up its investigation, Bice says it doesn't mean the investigation is over for good.

“It can only be as effective as us turning over every rock that needs to be turned over,” he said.

Bice says when students return to school after the holidays he wants, “an assurance to the children, their parents, and the community that this sort of thing will not happen again.”


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