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MARK HOLMBERG: City schools admit mistake

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR) – Richmond public schools readily admits that it grossly over-reported the number of students who earned diplomas from a prestigious international program offered at Thomas Jefferson High School.

A report by Richmond magazine’s Chris Dovi shows RPS reported to the state Department of Education that  53 students earned  International Baccalaureate diplomas during the past three years, when the actual number was only five.

RPS spokesman Stephen Bolton said the international test results come much later than regular school testing scores, and no one corrected the totals to reflect those that actually reached the program’s top tier. He said it happened year after year because no one called the previous reporting into question.

“It was an oversight,” Bolton  said, not a deliberate attempt make performance look better. “No intent.”

Dovi’s Freedom of Information Act request shows that RPS superintendent Dr. Yvonne Brandon signed off on the incorrect reports given to the state.

The report also revealed that one of the program’s instructors is not even licensed to teach in the state.

Dovi previously revealed that RPS underreported to the state the number of students expelled. CBS-6 has also uncovered errors in SAT reporting techniques that falsely and dramatically boosted the school system’s average.

Paul Goldman, a political strategist and schools reformer, said “we’ve had a lot of trouble over the years with the statistics from the school system. I had to correct some, as you know, and had to get the state Department of Education to correct others. So I think that shows a continuing problem that . . . needs to be corrected. You have to have statistics you can count on, and they have to be as accurate as possible. And if they give a bad impression that shows you’re not doing your job, well, you just have to put them out there.”

Bolton said it’s unfair to focus on a few bookkeeping errors when Richmond schools’ system has improved dramatically in recent years.  “That is often overlooked,” he said. “I believe the story is what we’re offering.”

He said the school is working harder to brighten the horizons of its students, and to attract more young residents to the system.

“That’s why you offer I.B. programs,” he said. “To bring people back home to Richmond Public Schools.”