Cheating in HCS – Admin Changing Grades


Tonight on WAFF, a former first grade teacher at University Place in Huntsville City Schools leveled accusations against someone with administrative privileges (the principal, assistant principal or TOSA, Reading Coaches, or anyone who has the teacher’s passwords in the school or downtown at Merts) of changing a student’s grades in the spring of 2013.

Additionally, after the grade had been submitted, the assistant principal sent out an email to teachers ordering teachers to raise any grade to at least a 50.

This is not what education is all about, and those committed to education know this. Sadly, that number doesn’t include our superintendent, our board members, or many who are running for school board next month.

Throwing Teachers Under the Bus for Public Relations Stunt

Yesterday, I wrote about the farce that the district put on yesterday afternoon in accusing a teacher of cheating while administering the ACT Aspire exam at the end of the year in May. Ms. Burks has been suspended for 15 days for allegedly suggesting to a student that the student might wish to reconsider an answer on the test.

After taking this public action, Dr. Robinson, the district three board member who is now running for the district three city council seat said, “I think we’re sending an important message to the public today that we will not let any testing irregularities go.”

The message that she, McCaulley and Birney actually sent was that they would happily throw a teacher under the bus as a public relations stunt.

And the report today demonstrates that clearly.

“Data-Driven” Leads to Cheating

Our district under Robinson’s, McCaulley’s, Blair’s, Culbreath’s, Birney’s and particularly Wardynski’s leadership have claimed to have taken a “data-driven” approach to education.

As I have written many times before, this sounds great until you realize that they are in fact altering the data to suit their purposes whenever they wish.  They’ve spun the financial recovery data. They’ve manipulated graduation rates by making it ridiculously difficult for teachers to actually fail a student who deserves to fail. They’ve given principals and teachers step-by-step instructions on how to alter SchoolNet benchmark data.

If all of that wasn’t enough to give Wardynski and the board the numbers that they want, they simply go in and change the grades without the teacher’s consent or knowledge.

What Message Does This Send to the Public, Dr. Robinson?

Well, it sends the message that it doesn’t matter how one performs on a test or for a 9 weeks grading period, the district will be happy to alter your grades so that even students who need to be held back for another year of growth and development cannot be.

Even if teachers, parents, and student performance in the classroom warrant holding that child back for a year, the district prefers to alter the student’s record to advance the student to the next grade. The district is more concerned about graduation rates than education.

Education Is Not A Competition

It’s time for us to remember that education is not a competition. It isn’t about numbers, data points, pass rates, student growth percentages, or test scores. Education is about doing what is right for the student. And sometimes the right thing for a student is to repeat a grade. (It was the right thing for my son, and we had to fight hard for that to happen even though he had met nearly none of his IEP goals for the year.)

Education isn’t a competition. Despite what Elisa Ferrell, a candidate for the district three school board seat, thinks when she told me that “everything is a competition.” (Honestly, that statement alone is sufficient reason not to vote for her for the school board. She doesn’t understand education.)

Viewing everything as a competition leads to this kind of action on the part of administrators. Viewing everything as a competition leads to cheating.

No, everything is not a competition. And education is one of the things that isn’t. It isn’t a zero-sum game with winners and losers. In education, everyone who participates, wins. Even the child who needs to be held back a year to master reading a bit more.

Wardynski has turned education, even at the pre-school level, into a competition. That’s wrong. It is, in fact, child abuse.

Tonight a teacher stood up for her student, her integrity, and for the future of education in this town. She is a hero for standing up for what is right, and she deserves our thanks.

"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.


  1. This has been going on a long time–well before the current superintendent was hired. I’ve been retired three years and we were always told not to give a grade below a 50. Also, I strongly agree with your opinions about the current superintendent linking standardized test scores to teacher evaluations. It definitely leads to cheating and it’s much more widespread than one teacher at MLK.

    1. I am certain that previous administrations have told teachers not to give less than a 50. I am unaware of incidents where the previous administration actually changed a grade for a teacher, but it is certainly possible that has happened as well.

      However, I still oppose the practice.

      Teachers, not principals–and certainly not superintendents, as the individual who knows the child the best should make up their own minds about what is best for the child. No one should force a teacher to raise a grade to a 50 or higher, and certainly no one in the administration should be altering grades to affect graduation rates.

      Thanks for reading and sharing this information with us.


  2. It is true that there has been scoring discrepancies before now…several years ago my daughter, while in an early elementary grade, faced the end-of-year STAR testing (or whatever it was call at the time.) Though they had been working on money changing, fractions, pre-algebra, critical thinking, time-telling, had only begun along with that to learn their multiplication tables, an urgent message was brought home from her teacher that the next week would be spent as a crash course on working multiplication and division problems…because it was going to be on the test. This without having learned all their tables yet.
    This is something that they had not yet addressed in class, and I was concerned that it would affect my daughter’s final grade (not realizing this test was more about rating teacher and school performance.)
    We spent that week forcing information in to her mind, and spent more time at home on this then they did in class (go figure.)
    Once testing was completed, there was no more multiplication or division assigned, and when the results came back, the school had received the coveted accreditation.
    What bothered me about this was not that the kids had to learn something for a test – though the pace was absurd – but that I was left wondering if they should have already been taught this, and that by the kids learning at the last minute in preparation, it wasn’t an honest reflection of what was happening in the classroom. I felt if they’d really learned anything, it was how some have to make up for the shortcomings in others…

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