Administrators Force Teachers
to Change Grades
The Loudoun County Public School District has hired an outside attorney to investigate allegations that administrators at one district high school force teachers to change students’ grades. Teachers at Loudoun Valley High School in northern Virginia say that when they give low grades they are harassed and it “results in negative consequences” for teachers. Formal complaints have been filed with the Loudoun County Public Schools Personnel Department against the principal, Sue Ross, an assistant principal, and the Special Education supervisor.
Loudoun Valley High School (LVHS) has an excellent academic reputation in the Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., where better-than-average public schools are the norm. 98% of the LVHS class of 2013 graduated on time. The grading controversy calls the school’s ranking into question. The principal has been in charge at LVHS for eight years.
LVHS math teacher John Petrosky told Leesburg Today, “The C is the new F at our school.” Petrosky said he refused to go along with grade changes and will not pass students who have not done the work. He said, “I’m one of the few people at [LVHS] who are willing to stand up and give students the grades they deserve.” But the pressure gets to him and he contemplates transferring to another school. Petrosky, who has taught for 30 years, admitted, “I’ll drive an hour and a half [to another school] just to get out of this situation.” Some LVHS teachers have already transferred to different schools.
Teachers claim that when students’ low grades were recorded in grade books, teachers “were either called to Ross’s office or they were called out during staff meetings to have their grades compared with those of other teachers in the same department.” Teachers also claim that administrators changed grades in grade books unbeknownst to teachers.
The teacher complaints include a letter from the school’s math department “detailing a meeting in which the teachers claim Ross requested perfect scores, and stated anything less would be reflected in their teacher evaluations.” One former teacher claims, “You had to get rid of your Ds and Fs, regardless of if the kids learned.”
A former LVHS social studies teacher said, “You’re forced to water down the content of the class and lower the accountability and the students learn real quickly that there aren’t going to be any consequences.” Teachers say they give students extra credit, allow them to re-take exams, delay assignment deadlines, and spend hours calling parents of students who are not performing well. Students know the teachers are under pressure to grade leniently and have come to expect the exceptions made. If all else fails, students can attend what’s called “Recovery School”: there students supposedly make up what they missed during the semester, but one student claims “they are practically guaranteed a C” just for showing up.
Although LVHS has the highest scores in the county on the Virginia Alternate Assessment, the state’s standardized test for special education students, it is alleged that teachers help students get those results. “An interpreter for the deaf and hard of hearing filed a formal complaint of test fraud with the Virginia Department of Education that claims she saw teachers repeatedly giving special education students answers.” The VDOE did nothing about her allegations except “request that the Loudoun school division draft a corrective action plan.”
Diane Warr, the parent of a LVHS special education student, was “outraged” when she saw that her son had scored 100% on all but 14 of the 93 tests he took in 2012. She said, “There’s no way he can do this work. So much of it is over his head.” Warr claims that when she asked her son questions from the tests, he could not answer them correctly.
At an October School Board Meeting, the assistant superintendent of Instruction and Curriculum for Loudoun County seemed to blame the federal No Child Left Behind program for some of the cheating that goes on. She said, “Your whole school is labeled in a way that one test on one day and one student can make a difference as to whether you make Annual Measurable Objectives or not.” (Leesburg Today, 10-30-13)