Published: April 13, 2014
GRAND JUNCTION — A Grand Junction school district is denying allegations of grade inflation after several teachers testified in a case involving the termination of a teacher.
The Daily Sentinel reports Sunday (http://bit.ly/1nlnI45) that an administrative law judge recommended retaining Grand Junction High School math teacher Jane White after teachers testified that administrators pressure them to avoid giving students D's and F's. Judge Matthew E. Norwood wrote that multiple teachers testified administrators pressured them in order to minimize complaints from parents and ensure extracurricular eligibility.
Norwood wrote that White was disciplined after complaining about the elimination of a math tutoring program.
District 51 Chief Academic Officer Bill Larsen said teachers district-wide are encouraged to teach or recommend tutoring among ways to prevent students from getting failing grades.
Any credible evidence that an administrator was encouraging teachers to inflate grades based on anything other than student effort "would be grounds for dismissal," Larsen said
"Whenever there's a large number of D and F students in a class we say, 'What do we need to do to improve those grades?' " Larsen said. "There can't be any ambiguity in how that is said with administration."
But in his findings, Norwood wrote: "'Failure was not an option' was the message these teachers received .... The administration sought to minimize complaints from parents and wanted to make sure that students remained eligible for athletic competition, marching band and other activities. Such eligibility was very important for some parents. Some parents would themselves complete a student's homework."
The District 51 School Board members deadlocked last week on deciding whether to fire White after 15 years on the job.
Larsen said teachers may be asked to re-teach one or more concepts if multiple students are failing or students who have failed may be sent to a computer lab for credit, or may be sent to tutoring before or after school.
Norwood's decision notes that White was disciplined after she said she was "speechless" and "flabbergasted" at the lack of support for a student math tutoring program aimed at students receiving D's and F's in math class. Administrators cut the after-school program because of costs.