- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Maryland’s probe into whether Prince George’s County administrators, teachers and others changed students’ grades and credits to boost graduation rates is no small undertaking.

Currently, fraud and corruption are the chief allegations.

Indeed, Prince George’s graduation rates have risen dramatically. In 2013 the rate was 74.1 percent, and in 2016 it was 81.4 percent — a 2 percent increase over last year. For instance, the rate at Surrattsville High School in Clinton rose from 80 percent to 90 percent.

If those numbers reflect the truth, then students, their families and school officials have every reason to shout from Prince George’s school headquarters in Upper Marlboro to the state Capitol in Annapolis.

Authorities also should clone Prince George’s schools CEO Kevin Maxwell, since the (remarkable) rise in grad rates occurred during his watch.

On the other hand, there’s no question that Gov. Larry Hogan has done the right thing by calling on the state Board of Education on Sunday for a two-prong investigation, and the fact that he also had to promise protection for potential whistleblowers proves the seriousness of the allegations.

Of course, at this juncture, the Prince George’s allegations do not appear to be as serious as those that rocked the state of Georgia. That state’s scandalous cheating affair began in 2009 with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution publishing an improbable likelihood that students’ grades could reach an incredible bar, and it ended in 2015, when 11 educators were convicted of racketeering and other charges.

Those educators were charged with running a racket, just like drug dealers and numbers runners.

Neither Maryland nor Prince George’s officials are unfamiliar with corruption. For starters, a federal probe has snared a handful of elected state and county officials and businessmen in a pay-to-play liquor board probe.

For another instance, teachers’ pay is tied not only to their individual educational achievement but also to students’ as well.

In his letter ordering the schools probe, Mr. Hogan said he wants the state school board to “take immediate steps to begin a complete, thorough, and exhaustive investigation” into the allegations that students’ grades were fraudulently boosted.

Mr. Maxwell, in response to media inquiries, again defended the school district, and said Monday that he is looking “forward to collaborating with the Maryland State Department of Education to resolve this matter.”

Well, that’s sort of a bad choice of words, isn’t it?

“Collaborating” is the very action that sent those Atlanta educators to the jailhouse. (“Cooperating” may have been more appropriate.)

Mr. Hogan’s letter was addressed to state school board President Andrew Smarick and cc’d to another top school official, the state superintendent.

Interesting, eh, that Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford was cc’d, as was Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.

The plot in Prince George’s thickens.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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