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  • Thursday, January 26, 2012


    Grade Inflation Series: PART 2

    Orange Unified’s Grade Inflation Out of the Box or Out of Control?
    Part 2
    Palo Verdes Peninsula Unified
    CST Incentive Program dividing community

    While Orange Unified’s El Modena High School California Standards Test (CST) Incentive Program is being ignored by the Orange Unified School Board and Administration, the CST Incentive program in Palo Verdes Peninsula Unified School District has been the focus of a community backlash on both sides of the issue. The PVPUSD School Board has found itself caught in the middle of a community crisis it had no say in developing, but has tried to deal with as problems in the school’s ill-designed program began to become evident across the close-knit well-to-do community.

    Similar to El Modena High School’s program, the PV High School program developed and initiated by the school’s administration without district approval, first split the high school's staff as the school’s administration pushed the program. Then the PV High School program’s “grade-boosting” reputation caused wide-spread community concern of “equity” and required school board to take action to revoke the school's program in July 2011. Now the school board is faced with a push back on its revoking the program and finds itself becoming as controversial as the ill designed program it and district staff had no say in developing.

    The Palo Verdes High School CST Incentive Program has caused a firestorm in this small close-knit community. Blindsided by the controversy and problems coming to the forefront, in July of 2011 the program was revoked by the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School Board when the PVSPU Superintendent and Board were hit by a barrage of complaints about a policy they did not approve. Parents and educators from the cross town rival school, Palo Verdes Peninsula High School, as well as parents from Palo Verdes High School complained about the equity of the program to the school board who revoked the program in a special meeting in the summer. PVSPU Superintendent Walker Williams was widely quoted as calling the system “not totally equitable”, while the PVPUSD Board President Barbara Lucky stated that the Board was not fully informed about the program. Now the controversy has returned with some in the school wanting the Board of Education to reverse its vote to revoke the program. The Board has directed the high school's staff to try and come to a consensus before taking further action.

    Among the concerns that came to light is a change in a senior student’s grade from their 10th grade year (based on a CST Score that year) that allowed that senior student to become the high school’s Valedictorian. The prestige of Valedictorian has enormous consequences. As an example, California State University, Long Beach gives any Valedictorian who selects CSULB a full scholarship. The fallout from the grade change-two years after the fact-that led to the Valedictorian fiasco and the fact that the PVPUSD School Board was not informed of the program, led PVPUSD Board President Barbara Lucky, PVPUSD Superintendent Williams and parents to publicly question the program.

    PV High School Principal Dr. Nick Stephany however has publicly defended the program, putting him at odds with the school board and the Superintendent. The principal cites the CST Incentive as one of the programs in an arsenal of programs that PV High School used to get their API Score to 898. While the principal has also defended the program by stating that only 5 percent of the students have boosted their grades using the program he also acknowledges that because of so many new programs at PV High School, nothing can be directly attributed to any one for the school's increase in API. However, parents and faculty point out that cross town rival PVP High School also increased its API score to 898 without the CST Incentive program or the controversy. The program has also divided the staff at PV High School as well. While the school board has directed the staff to come to a consensus for the school board to consider, with the controversy in the open and community-wide, the staff appears even more divided.

    In addition, Board members under advice from district counsel were concerned about possible exposure of the district to an ongoing American Civil Liberty Lawsuit (ACLU) lawsuit over the use of fee-based Advanced Placement (AP) tests and the grade-boosting based on AP testing results. That issue is yet to be addressed.

    None of the issues that PVPUSD is dealing with have yet developed in the case of Orange Unified’s El Modena High School’s CST Initiative Program. In comparison El Modena’s less thought out CST Program has even more troubling attributes than the PV High School program has- as this series will continue to examine.

    LINK to PART 1: PART 1

    Orange Unified’s Grade Inflation Out of the Box or Out of Control?Is an investigative news series of
    Orange Net News /O/N/N/
    Independent insight into OUSD

    WATCH FOR Part 3 Of Orange Net News newest investigative series:

    Orange Unified’s Grade Inflation Out of the Box or Out of Control?

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