State education department to review Kennedy High School amid grade-inflation investigation

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On Tuesday, May 28, parents, alumni and students await the New Beginnings Schools Foundation as it learns of details about an investigation into grade-fixing.

The Louisiana Department of Education is going to review John F. Kennedy High School’s policies and practices regarding “credit attainment and graduate completion records” amid investigations into alleged grade-fixing at the charter school.

That’s according to a letter Assistant State Superintendent Kunjan Narechania sent to the Gentilly high school charter network’s board president Raphael Gang on Friday.

“In order to assist in the [network’s] review, and in order to validate its findings, the Louisiana Department of Education will conduct a separate review of the policies and practices around credit attainment and graduate completion records at John F. Kennedy High School (JFK),” she wrote.

The review comes two months into an investigation, commissioned by the charter network, into grade-inflation allegations at the 690-student high school and weeks after the resignation of CEO Michelle Blouin-Williams.

One week ago, Gang announced that five high school employees were no working longer for the New Beginnings Schools Foundation network. And this week, students and parents told board members they couldn’t access transcripts and wanted to ensure their graduation records accurately reflected their status.

As The Lens first reported in March, Runell King, a former New Beginnings employee, reported what he saw as suspicious changes to some students’ grades, including grades that went from failing to passing. As King noted in an interview at the time, improperly changing grades could impact the school’s graduation rate, an important component of its state performance score. In this case, the school was graded an F based on state standardized test performance alone. But its graduation rate score was 84.9, a B. Overall, it was rated a C.

The Orleans Parish school district, which is also investigating the allegations, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Narechania said the review will examine three things.

The state will assess whether the charter group is “completing an accurate assessment of each student’s graduation status.” It will also measure whether the network is communicating with students and families about what they need to do for post-secondary plans.

Finally, the state will “Provide recommendations to NBSF on policies related to credit attainment that will prevent future challenges.”

Gang did not immediately return a request for comment.

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