Some Waco ISD students graduated without meeting requirements

Posted at 1:08 PM, Oct 26, 2016
and last updated 2018-07-24 21:30:30-04

Internal and external investigations found that some University High School graduates who obtained diplomas in June did not meet all state requirements.

Three administrators from that school, including the campus principal, remained on administrative paid leave because of this on Wednesday.

The district first received the notice of some error in a computerized grade and attendance reports one day before the UHS graduation ceremony.

As part of the external investigation conducted Walsh, Gallegos, Trevino, Russo and Kyle, the law firm reviewed interviews with campus employees and reviewed educational records of 149 UHS students, which is only a portion of the records of that graduation class.

Waco Independent School District Board of Trustees President Pat Atkins said it is unknown how many students graduated without deserving it.

"Bottom line is if even one student earned a diploma they didn't deserve, that's one too many,” Atkins said.

The two investigations that followed revealed that the standards for passing English projects were lowered and projects were then re-graded.

In addition, at least three students who failed or did not take three exams were allowed to graduate after doing individual projects. However, under state law, students can do those projects, if they fail two of them.

Furthermore, some students who should have taken a test did not and were allowed to complete an Individual Graduation Committee process instead. Under state and administrator guidelines, the retesting had to happen before students could get the credit through a project.

Waco ISD parent Jontovia Watson said the findings of the external investigation are concerning.

"If they didn't get it and then they are going into somebody's college, then they are still not going to know. It's like you just gave them a free diploma, they didn't even have to work for it," Watson said.

Waco ISD released a 16-page excerpt of the external investigator’s Factual Summary Report, which list findings, some students went from a failing grade to a passing grade after only a few hours work in an online credit recovery curriculum.

"This should not have happened and we are going to implement policies and procedures to ensure that doesn't happen again where a student can earn a full year of chemistry in less than four hours,” Atkins said.

The students who graduated without meeting all requirements will keep their diploma.

"As of that moment, they were awarded their high school diploma and nothing in this investigation will take those diplomas away,” Atkins said.

According to Atkins, the Texas Education guidelines indicate no student formally certified as a graduate will lose that diploma or status.

Atkins said they don't believe these discrepancies happened before or at any other campuses. He said at least two of the administrators now on leave were new to the district. 

The Waco ISD board announced on Wednesday said it will continue its internal investigation and the administration and trustees will review recommendations from the external investigation. Several of the law firm’s suggestions have been in place in district guidelines, according to Atkins.

In addition, the district will take steps to ensure a culture of communication between campus and district coordinators. A district-level coordinator to oversee the ICG process, including development, regulation and changing passing standards, re-testing and credit recovery.

The 16-page excerpt of the external Investigator’s Factual Summary Report is found below.

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