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Office of Accountability and Testing

130 Trinity Ave, SW


Atlanta, Georgia 30303-3624

July 31, 2015

Review of Grade Change Data, Causes, and Related Policy and Procedures
Executive Summary
Over the past year, APS has completed eight investigations involving inappropriate grade changes (four from the
2013-2014 school year and four from the 2014-2015 school year). As a result, the Chief Accountability and
Information Officer and his team have conducted a review of practices related to the use of the automated teacher
gradebook, data from the Infinite Campus Transcript Audit Reports (that show the differences between the
teachers gradebooks and the official transcript data that are sent to the state), and the reasons for discrepancies
between the gradebooks and transcripts.
High school data for the past three years have been reviewed. However, to understand and document current
practices, procedures, and reasons for grade changes, a detailed review of the 2014-2015 data was conducted.
In general, except for one school, the Transcript Audit Report data for 2012-2013, 2013-2014, and 2014-2015 are
similar (see table below).
Number of Grade Changes (by year)
District Total

2012-2013
2332

2013-2014
3471

2014-2015
2134

The one significant outlier, in terms of the number of changes, was in 2013-2014 at South Atlanta School of Law
and Social Justice where there were 793 grade changes. (Because of complaints from school staff about practices
at the school, an investigation of the schools practices was begun last fall and completed in May 2015. This is one
of the eight investigations that were completed earlier this year and noted above.)
It should also be noted that the number of grade changes varies somewhat by school across years. To better
understand these variations, as part of this review, particular attention was given to schools with larger number of
grade changes in 2014-2015, and the findings are discussed below. This examination included not only a review of
the data, but also interviews with appropriate central office staff, teachers, registrars, and principals.
It is important to note that in 2014-2015 there were 11,556 high school students and each student received about
16 grades. In other words, the 2,134 changes were in relation to about 185,000 total grades for these students.
This is a rate of approximately 1 change out of every 100 grades.
It might be assumed that all grade changes result in students receiving higher grades, or a change from a failing to
a passing grade. However, the data show a more complex set of circumstances and outcomes. For example, of the
2,134 changes, in only 50% of the cases was a numeric grade changed to a higher grade; in 24.9% of the cases the
grade was changed from a letter grade (e.g., incomplete) to a numeric grade; and in 25% of the cases the students
actually received lower grades.
Similarly, less than half (741) of these changes were either from failing to passing grades or from letter grades
(such as incompletes) to passing grades. In many cases (889), while there was a grade change, it was correcting
or changing a passing grade to another higher or lower passing grade. The third big category of changes was grade

changes that resulted in failing final grades (481). The last small group (23) were grade changes that resulted in
letter grades such as incompletes.
In regard to the reasons for grade changes, again the circumstances and reasons vary among schools. As already
noted, over the past year, APS has completed eight investigations involving inappropriate grade changes (four
from the 2013-2014 school year and four from the 2014-2015 school year). This review did not identify additional
cases of serious inappropriate actions, although we did find inconsistencies in practice, lack of clarity in process,
and a lack of the necessary safeguards to effectively prevent inappropriate activity.

It is important to note that this review was largely a data review. It focused specifically on data changes in the
Infinite Campus Transcript Audit Reports. Staff also reviewed and compared the data from the audit reports with
the data on the paper change forms used by schools. Additionally, interviews were conducted with central office
staff, teachers, registrars, and nine high school principals to review and analyze school and district practices,
district procedures and policies, and specific cases where large numbers of changes were made in 2014-2015.
Moving forward, the district will implement new workflow requirements and closely monitor grade changes, and
will continue to thoroughly investigate any additional accusations of wrong doing and/or inappropriate or
questionable practices. The district maintains a hot line for anyone to anonymously call to reports misconduct, and
employees, stakeholders, parents, and students are strongly encouraged to either use the hot line or to directly
contact either the APS Employee Relations office or the Superintendents office if they are concerned about any
conduct, practice, or policy that seems questionable or inappropriate.
Among the recommendations presented in the report are a number related to processes, policies, training, and
monitoring. It is clear from the review that the schools and district must improve in these areas to ensure the
integrity of the students grades.
The attached report provides detailed data, analysis, findings and recommendations. Over the new few weeks, as
teachers and staff return to school, the district will continue to examine related policies and practices. In some
cases, it seems clear that additional guidance and training for administrators, registrars, and teachers are needed.
While this report is an important step, it will be critical to involve all stakeholders as we continue to improve our
standard operating procedures, policies, communication, and training.

Historical Data by School


The number of grade changes1 for the past three years are summarized in the table and graph below. The table
provides the counts of the number of changes to final student grades. These data are based on an Infinite Campus
report that compares the grade book grade with the transcript grade. 2 According to Administrative Regulation,
all challenges to grades must be made within 15 days. However, errors (based on evidence) can be corrected at
any time.
It should be noted that the data in the table do not take into consideration the size of the school. For example, in
2014-2015 Mays HS had a larger number of changes than South Atlanta Law; however, Mays HS has a much larger
student enrollment. To provide a more useful and appropriate comparison, the graph (page 4) below takes
enrollment into account and show a (per student) ratio relative to enrollment.
Number of Grade Changes by School
School

2012-2013

2013-2014

2014-2015

BEST High

25

12

Carver Arts

55

238

31

Carver Early College

77

91

13

Carver Health

58

19

18

Carver Technology

56

219

18

Alonzo Crim Open Campus

77

87

111

Coretta Scott King HS

35

241

Frederick Douglass HS

129

286

243

41

14

Charles R. Drew Academy


Forrest Hills
Henry W. Grady HS
Hillside

86

93

348

244

269

Maynard Jackson High

149

181

86

KIPP Collegiate

122

58

181

Benjamin E. Mays

282

277

292

North Atlanta

160

331

64

South Atlanta CAD

93

50

32

South Atlanta Health

172

39

51

South Atlanta Law

197

793

258

Therrell Health

21

64

25

Therrell Law

37

90

25

Therrell S.T.E.M.S

121

37

29

BT Washington HS

128

143

West End

31

33

28

2332

3471

2134

Grand Total

As can be seen below, when we divide the number of changes by the enrollment the ratio provides a better
understanding of the data. Using the example above, while Mays HS had a larger number of grade changes than
South Atlanta Law, the number of changes per student for Mays HS is much smaller. The color of each bar indicate
the types of change: Blue indicates changes where the grade did not change from a failing grade to a passing one;
gray indicates a change from a letter code (such as I = incomplete or NG = no grade) to a number grade; and
orange indicates that a number grade was changed from failing to passing.
1

Grade changes are defined as cases where the grades in the teachers Infinite Campus gradebook do not match the grade in
the official transcript file that is sent to the state.
2

After teachers complete their final grades, they post the grades to a transcript. Once the grades are posted, teachers can
correct or change grades in their grade book, BUT they cannot re-post the grades to the transcript or official grade file. To
change a grade in transcript, a teacher must complete a grade change form and submit it to the school registrar who then will
manually change the grade in the transcript.

Three Categories of Grade Changes


The data in the table below summarize the types of grade changes found for each high school. There are three
broad categories of grade changes:

Changes to failing grades these include failing grades that were changed to either higher or lower failing
grades; letter grades (such as incompletes) that were changed to failing grades; and (in a small number
of cases) passing grades that were changed to failing grades.

Changes to letter grades this is, by far, the smallest category (total of 23) and include changes from
passing grades to letter grades; changes from letter grades to a different letter grade; and changes from
failing grades to letter grades.

Changes to passing grades these include passing grades that were changed to either higher or lower
passing grades; letter grades (such as incompletes) that were changed to passing grades; and failing
grades that were changed to passing grades.

As can be seen in the table below, in 2014-2015 there were a total of 2,134 grade changes where the teachers
grade book and the official transcript grades did not match. Since there were 11,556 high school students
enrolled, there were .18 grade changes per student. However, it is important to note that typically each student
has 16 posted grades per year.3 As a result, the more meaningful comparison is to compare the 2,134 changes in
relation to about 185,000 grades posted to transcript each year for high school students (or about one grade
change for every 100 posted grades). It should also be noted that in more than half the cases, the grade changes
do not impact whether the student passed or failed the course. Specifically, for example, in 204 cases the change
was from a failing grade to another failing grade. The grade may have been raised or lowered, but the final grade
was still a failing grade; in an additional 252 cases, letter grades (e.g., I = Incomplete) were changed to failing
grades; and in 889 cases, the grade was changed from a passing grade to a higher or lower passing grade. In other
words, of the 2,134 changes at least 1,345 of the changes did not result in a failing grade being changed to a
passing grade. In fact, in only 482 cases were failing grades posted in teachers grade books changed to passing
grades in the official transcript file. The most common reasons for grade changes are described below.
3

Most high school students will have 16 grades per year regardless if they are in a 4 X 4 or 4 X 8 schedule. For students with 4 X
4 schedules, they take four courses each semester; at the end of each quarter, they receive a grade (e.g., for 9th grade
literature, a student in a 4 X 4 would receive .5 credits each quarter is they pass); at the end of the first semester, the four
courses are completed and the student has received 8 grades four in each quarter. For a student in a 4 X 8 schedule, the
student is taking 8 courses, and receiving 8 grades each semester (e.g., for a student taking 9th grade literature, the student
would earn .5 credits each semester).

To explain the data in the table below, for example, the school with the largest number of changes in relation to
the school enrollment was Coretta Scott King HS (CSK). Specifically, the school enrollment was 244 and there were
241 grade changes at CSK in 2014-2015. As a result, in 2014-2015 there was about one grade change (.99) per
student enrolled at CSK. (Again however, it should be noted that students typically take either four courses per
quarter or eight courses per semester (see footnote 3). so the rate of changes for CSK is about one in every 16
grades.) As can also be seen, CSK is somewhat unique in that more than half of the changes (124 or 51.5%) in
2014-2015 were to failing final grades. Again, this example is only to help explain the data in the table.
The next two columns of data show the numbers and percentages of grade changes to letter grades. As can be
seen, there were a total of 23 changes in this category (see last row of the table below).
The last two columns, show the numbers and percentages of grades that were changed to passing grades. Changes
to passing grades are the most common type of grade change. As can be seen, districtwide there were 1630 grade
changes to passing grades or 76.4% of all changes were to passing grades. These data include three subcategories:
grades changed from passing grades to passing grades; grades changed from letter grades to passing numerical
grades; and grade changes from failing to passing grades. Again, to put this number in perspective it should be
noted that total enrollment in 2014-2015 for grades 9-12 was 11,556 students and, typically, each student received
eight grades per semester (in either a 4 X 4 or 4 X 8 schedule) or 16 grades per year (see footnote 3). Therefore, in
2014-2015 the total number of grades for all students enrolled in grades 9-12 was about 185,000.
The reasons for these changes vary across schools and are detailed below.
2014-2015 Grade Changes

School
Coretta Scott King Academy HS
South Atlanta Law and Social Justice
Forrest Hill Academy
KIPP Atlanta Collegiate
Alonzo Crim Open Campus
Frederick Douglass High School
Henry W. Grady High School
South Atlanta Health & Medical Sciences
Benjamin E. Mays High School
West End Academy PLC
South Atlanta Computer Design
Therrell S.T.E.M.S
Therrell Health Science & Research
Therrell Law Govn & Public Policy
Carver School of the Arts
Maynard Jackson High School
Charles R. Drew Charter Academy
Carver School of Technology
Carver School of Health Sciences
BEST Academy High School
Carver Early College
North Atlanta High School
BT Washington HS
Total

Enrollment
244
266
143
499
322
776
1286
278
1614
171
267
259
240
243
343
954
196
285
304
212
316
1574
764
11556

# of
Changes
241
258
93
181
111
243
269
51
292
28
32
29
25
25
31
86
14
18
18
12
13
64

Changes
per
Enrolled
Student
0.99
0.97
0.65
0.36
0.34
0.31
0.21
0.18
0.18
0.16
0.12
0.11
0.10
0.10
0.09
0.09
0.07
0.06
0.06
0.06
0.04
0.04

All
Changes
to Failing
Grades
124
74
52
33
30
65
23
7
28
9
4
2
4
2
5
6
4
2
4
0
0
3

% of
Changes
that are
to Failing
Grades
51.5%
28.7%
55.9%
18.2%
27.0%
26.7%
8.6%
13.7%
9.6%
32.1%
12.5%
6.9%
16.0%
8.0%
16.1%
7.0%
28.6%
11.1%
22.2%
0.0%
0.0%
4.7%

2134

0.18

481

22.5%

All
Changes
to
Letter
Grades
0
0
0
0
8
8
2
0
0
3
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
2
0
0

%
Changes
that are
to Letter
Grades
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
7.2%
3.3%
0.7%
0.0%
0.0%
10.7%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
16.7%
0.0%
0.0%

All
Changes
to
Passing
Grades
117
184
41
148
73
170
244
44
264
16
28
27
21
23
26
80
10
16
14
10
13
61

% of
Changes
that are
to
Passing
Grades
48.5%
71.3%
44.1%
81.8%
65.8%
70.0%
90.7%
86.3%
90.4%
57.1%
87.5%
93.1%
84.0%
92.0%
83.9%
93.0%
71.4%
88.9%
77.8%
83.3%
100.0%
95.3%

23

1.1%

1630

76.4%

Grade Changes: Timing, Size, and Patterns (e.g., to 70)


As is shown above, of the 2,134 grade changes 1630 (76.4%) resulted in a passing grade. However, as is shown in
detail below, only 482 (22.6%) of the changes were from failing grades to a passing grades, while an additional 259
(12.1%) were from letter grades (e.g., incompletes) to passing (numeric) grades. Conversely, 889 (41.7%) of the
changes were from passing grades to a higher or lower passing grades. The remaining grade changes were to
either failing grades (481 or 22.5%) or to letter grades (23 or 1.1%).
In the majority of cases where numeric grades were changed to other numeric grades, the grade increased. As
shown in the table below, in 533 cases the grade changes were from numeric grades to lower grades. However,
some of the grade changes resulted in significantly higher grades. For example, in 190 (9.3%) cases the grade
increases were 21 points or higher. Based on principal interviews, typically changes of this size were the result of
students handing in missing assignments or making up one or more very low grades.
Magnitude of Grade Changes

Number

Percentage

Transcript grade was letter


Letter to Numeric Transcript Grade
Transcript grade was lower
Increases:
0-5 points
6-10 points
11-15
16-20
21-25
26-30
>30
Total

23
511
533

1.1
23.9
25.0

448
239
110
80
41
38
111
2,134

21.0
11.2
5.2
3.7
1.9
1.8
5.2
100%

For all grade changes (letter or numeric), the distribution of final transcript grades is shown below. Again, many
(481) of the grade changes were to failing grades (i.e., less than 70), while many (663) of the changes were to
grades between 70 and 75 (i.e., low passing grades). Few (289) of the changes resulted in grades higher than 90
and many of these changes were to apply the 10 points earned for AP courses. Based on interviews with principals,
the students with higher grades include students who monitor their grades closely and are, perhaps, more likely
than other students to challenge grades that they believe are incorrect even if the errors or changes are very small.
Final Transcript Grade

Number

Percentage

Letter grade
<60
60-69
70
71-75
76-80
80-85
86-90
90-100
>100 (AP and IB courses)
Total

23
342
139
379
284
297
195
186
262
27
2,134

1.1
16.0
6.5
17.8
13.3
13.9
9.1
8.7
12.3
1.3
100%

In 2013-2014, a number of changes at South Atlanta School of Law and Social Justice were made long after the
close of the 2013-2014 school year (e.g., in fall of 2014). As a result, for the most recent (2014-2015) data, the
timeline of the changes was examined. As can be seen, the large majority of the grade changes took place during
the months when grading period end or the month immediately after a grading period ended. In the case of a
couple of high schools, principals indicated that students return after the winter breaks and challenge the accuracy
of their grades. Although this may occur after the 15 day appeal window, if schools believe the student is correct in
their challenge the school is likely to make the correction even after the window is supposed to have closed.

Month

Number

Percentage

August September
October (1st Quarter)
November
December ( 1st Semester)
January
February
March (3rd Quarter)
April
May (2nd Semester
June (Summer School)
July
Total

---32
57
19
191
155
311
47
1,039
282
1
2,134

---1.5
2.7
0.9
9.0
7.3
14.6
2.2
48.7
13.2
0.0
100%

Three Categories of Grade Changes: to Failing Grades


As was shown in the table above, 22.5% of the grade changes were to final grades that were failing grades. As was
noted in the example above, Coretta Scott King HS (CSK) had the largest number and percentage (124 and 51.5%,
respectively) of grade changes resulting in failing grades. As is shown in the table, in 123 of the 124 cases, the
grade changes were from a letter grade (i.e., Incomplete was coded with the letter I) to a failing grade. This was
also a common practice at the South Atlanta HS for Law and Social Justice. The detailed data and information for
these schools are summarized below.
The second most common subcategory from changes to failing grade is changes from a failing grade to a different,
but also, failing grade. For examples, at both Forrest Hill Academy and Douglas HS there were 51 cases where the
grade book and transcript grades differed but both grades were failing grades (i.e., a numerical grade below 70).
Grade Changes to Failing Grades

School
Coretta Scott King Academy HS
South Atlanta Law and Social Justice
Forrest Hill Academy
KIPP Atlanta Collegiate
Alonzo Crim Open Campus
Frederick Douglass High School
Henry W. Grady High School
South Atlanta Health & Medical Sciences
Benjamin E. Mays High School
West End Academy PLC
South Atlanta Computer Design
Therrell S.T.E.M.S
Therrell Health Science & Research
Therrell Law Government & Public Policy
Carver School of the Arts
Maynard Jackson High School
Charles R. Drew Charter Academy
Carver School of Technology
Carver School of Health Sciences
BEST Academy High School
Carver Early College
North Atlanta High School
Total

Enrollment
244
266
143
499
322
776
1286
278
1614
171
267
259
240
243
343
954
196
285
304
212
316
1574
11556

# of
Changes
241
258
93
181
111
243
269
51
292
28
32
29
25
25
31
86
14
18
18
12
13
64
2134

Changes
per
Enrolled
Student
0.99
0.97
0.65
0.36
0.34
0.31
0.21
0.18
0.18
0.16
0.12
0.11
0.10
0.10
0.09
0.09
0.07
0.06
0.06
0.06
0.04
0.04
0.18

Failing to
Failing
(Numeric)
1
51
6
14
51
18
5
23
6
2
2
4
2
3
6
2
2
3
0
3
204

Letter
to
Failing
123
74
26
6
14
2
2
1
2

Passing
to Failing
(Numeric)

1
1
10
3
2
3
2

2
0
0

0
1

252

25

All
Changes
to Failing
Grades
124
74
52
33
30
65
23
7
28
9
4
2
4
2
5
6
4
2
4
0
0
3
481

% of
Changes
that are
to Failing
Grades
51.5%
28.7%
55.9%
18.2%
27.0%
26.7%
8.6%
13.7%
9.6%
32.1%
12.5%
6.9%
16.0%
8.0%
16.1%
7.0%
28.6%
11.1%
22.2%
0.0%
0.0%
4.7%
22.5%

Three Categories of Grade Changes: to Passing Grades


As was noted above, in 2014-2015, 1630 of the 2134 total grade changes (76.4%) were to final grades that were
passing grades. What was not shown is that the large majority (889) of these changes were from grades that were
already passing to different grades that were also passing. Of the 1630 changes, 259 were from letter grades to
passing numerical grades, and 482 of the changes were from failing grades to passing grades.
Again, a detailed summary of reasons for these changes is provided below.
Grade Changes to Passing Grades

School
Coretta Scott King Academy HS
South Atlanta Law and Social Justice
Forrest Hill Academy
KIPP Atlanta Collegiate
Alonzo Crim Open Campus
Frederick Douglass High School
Henry W. Grady High School
South Atlanta Health & Medical Sciences
Benjamin E. Mays High School
West End Academy PLC
South Atlanta Computer Design
Therrell S.T.E.M.S
Therrell Health Science & Research
Therrell Law Govn & Public Policy
Carver School of the Arts
Maynard Jackson High School
Charles R. Drew Charter Academy
Carver School of Technology
Carver School of Health Sciences
BEST Academy High School
Carver Early College
North Atlanta High School
Total

Enrollment
244
266
143
499
322
776
1286
278
1614
171
267
259
240
243
343
954
196
285
304
212
316
1574
11556

# of
Changes
241
258
93
181
111
243
269
51
292
28
32
29
25
25
31
86
14
18
18
12
13
64
2134

Changes
per
Enrolled
Student
0.99
0.97
0.65
0.36
0.34
0.31
0.21
0.18
0.18
0.16
0.12
0.11
0.10
0.10
0.09
0.09
0.07
0.06
0.06
0.06
0.04
0.04
0.18

Failing to
Passing
(Numeric)
8
105
18
79
27
71
21
34
29
2
17

Letter
to
Passing
63
57
51
6
46
9
9
6
3

4
7
8
8
15
1
1
0
27
482

1
1
0
0
4
0
3
259

Passing
to
Passing
(Numeric)
46
22
23
18
40
53
214
10
226
8
8
27
17
23
18
72
1
1
13
5
13
31
889

All
Changes
to
Passing
Grades
117
184
41
148
73
170
244
44
264
16
28
27
21
23
26
80
10
16
14
10
13
61
1630

% of
Changes
that are
to
Passing
Grades
48.5%
71.3%
44.1%
81.8%
65.8%
70.0%
90.7%
86.3%
90.4%
57.1%
87.5%
93.1%
84.0%
92.0%
83.9%
93.0%
71.4%
88.9%
77.8%
83.3%
100.0%
95.3%
76.4%

Three Categories of Grade Changes: to Letter Grades


As was noted above, there were only 23 cases in 2014-2015 where the final grade in transcript was changed to a
letter grade. As can be seen below, the cases were limited to five schools including two of the alternative
schools/programs: Crim Open Campus and West End Academy. A review of the data show that in the majority of
cases the final was either an F or an NG. A grade of F was used in cases where little or no work was
completed by the student, and NG was used in similar cases and in a few instances where transcripts had not yet
arrived from another school.
Grade Changes to Letter Grades
Changes
per
Enrolled
Student

Failing
to
Letter

Letter
to
Letter

Passing
to
Letter

All
Changes
to Letter
Grades

%
Changes
that are
to Letter
Grades

Enrollment

# of
Changes

Coretta Scott King Academy HS

244

241

0.99

0.0%

South Atlanta Law and Social Justice


Forrest Hill Academy

266
143

258
93

0.97
0.65

0
0

0.0%
0.0%

KIPP Atlanta Collegiate


Alonzo Crim Open Campus

499
322

181
111

0.36
0.34

0
8

0.0%
7.2%

Frederick Douglass High School


Henry W. Grady High School
South Atlanta Health & Medical Sciences

776
1286
278

243
269
51

0.31
0.21
0.18

8
2
0

3.3%
0.7%
0.0%

Benjamin E. Mays High School


West End Academy PLC

1614
171

292
28

0.18
0.16

0
3

0.0%
10.7%

South Atlanta Computer Design


Therrell S.T.E.M.S
Therrell Health Science & Research

267
259
240

32
29
25

0.12
0.11
0.10

0
0
0

0.0%
0.0%
0.0%

Therrell Law Govn & Public Policy


Carver School of the Arts

243
343

25
31

0.10
0.09

0
0

0.0%
0.0%

Maynard Jackson High School


Charles R. Drew Charter Academy

954
196

86
14

0.09
0.07

0
0

0.0%
0.0%

Carver School of Technology


Carver School of Health Sciences
BEST Academy High School

285
304
212

18
18
12

0.06
0.06
0.06

0
0
1

0
0

0
0
1

0
0
2

0.0%
0.0%
16.7%

Carver Early College


North Atlanta High School

316
1574

13
64

0.04
0.04

0
0

0.0%
0.0%

Booker T Washington HS
Total

764
11556

0
2134

0.00
0.18

0
15

0
4

0
4

0
23

0.0%
1.1%

School

8
6

2
2

Use of Paper Grade-Change Form


As can be seen below, in some schools there were large differences in the number of grade change forms
completed compared to the total number of grade changes as identified by the IC Transcript Audit Reports. In
some cases, it may be that grade changes were made prior to the gradebook grades being posted to the transcript
file. (This appears to be the case for Forrest Hill Academy and West End where grades were produced in the
GradPoint or Edgenuity system and then manually entered in the IC grade files, and approval forms were
completed.) As a result, the number of forms actually exceeded the number of cases where there was a difference
between the gradebook and the transcript file. More typically, in cases such as CSK, Douglass, Mays, and South
Atlanta Law and Social Justice, there were many more changes than completed forms. (For Douglass HS, it should
be noted that in 62 cases grades were changed from 0 to 1 because the state does not accept a score of zero on
student record, and the changes were needed so the grades could be sent to the Georgia Department of
Education.)
Use of Paper Grade-Change Form

BEST
Carver Arts
Carver Health Science Research
Carver Early College
Carver Technology
Crim Open Campus
Coretta Scott King (CSK)
Frederick Douglass
Forrest Hills
Henry W. Grady
Maynard Jackson
Benjamin E. Mays
North Atlanta
South Atlanta CAD
South Atlanta Health and Med. Science
South Atlanta Law and Social Justice
Therrell
BT Washington
West End
Total

2014-15
Completed
Grade Change
Forms
8
46
12
42
58
98
103
102
219
206
0
24
44
28
43
180
34
6
104
1357

2014-15 Total
Grade
Changes
12
31
18
13
18
110
241
243
93
269
86
292
64
32
51
258
79
0
28
1938

Difference

4
-15
6
-29
-40
12
138
141
-126
63
86
268
20
4
8
78
45
-6
-76
581

Most Common Reasons for Grade Changes


Based on the Infinite Campus data and discussions with teachers, principals and registrars, the most common
reasons that grades are changed are outlined below.
1.

The most common reasons for grade changes were the completion of missing assignments, completion of
recovery assignments and completion of remediation work. According to the Infinite Campus Transcript
Audit Reports, 388 students grades were changed after the student completed recovery assignments, missing
assignments, or remediation assignments. In all 388 cases, the grades were changed from either a letter
grades (e.g., incomplete) to passing grades or from a failing (numerical) grades to passing grades.
Overall, 482 grades were changed from failing to passing, and 259 grades were changed from letter grades to
passing grades. Therefore, this recovery category accounts for 52% of these changes. (This percentage is
based on the information available (e.g., discussions with staff). It is likely that more of the changes were the
result of assignments being made-up or recovery/remediation assignments being completed.)

10

2.

The second most common reason was in cases where the school had not notified parents of failing grades and
decided to post letter grades until the parent notifications were done. For example, in 2014-2015 there were
123 cases at Coretta Scott King HS where student grades were changed from an Incomplete (I) to a failing
grade after the school notified the parents (as required by APS policy).

3.

At two schools, most of the grade changes occurred after the first semester. According to one principal, this is
because grades are posted and report cards are distributed, and then after the winter break, students and
parents disputed the grades. In cases where the teacher agreed to correct or change grades, the changes are
documented using the Grade Change Form. After the principal approves the change, the registrar changes the
grade on the transcript directly either because the teacher or registrar does not think that they can update the
gradebook at that point or because they want to document formally the change though the paper process.

4.

At a third (alternative) school, Forrest Hill Academy, the online program was not started until late in the first
semester. As a result, a number of students did not complete the units of study by the end of the grading
period in January 2015. As a result, in 50 cases, grades were changed to 69 because students did not have the
full 15 weeks to complete the classes. At the end of the school year, in 15 cases, grades were changed to
passing grades when the student completed the Forrest Hill Academy summer academy.

5.

At one school, 31 grade changes were made because the gradebooks for multiple music classes taught by the
same teacher were set up incorrectly. There were, apparently, a couple of other cases at Grady HS where
teachers set up the gradebook incorrectly and had to correct the grades after grades were posted.

6.

Also at one school, 23 grades were changed in order to add the 10 points students earned because the classes
were Advanced Placement (AP) courses. This same correction was made at a second high school where 14
grades were changed to add the 10 extra point for AP courses. (In most cases, teachers build the AP credits
into the gradebook but not in a few cases.)

7.

At another school, there were 58 cases where grades of 0 were changed to grades of 1. These changes
were made because the state system does not permitted grades of 0 to be posted to transcript.

8.

In 12 cases, the reason that grades were changed was that transcripts were received from Georgia State
University (GSU) or Atlanta Metropolitan College (AMC) after the grades had already been posted. Nearly all of
these cases were at Mays HS (11).

9.

At one high school, 14 students Advanced Algebra grades were changed from Incompletes to passing
grades after the students completed a special math project.

Process for Changing Grades


APS provides annual training on the use of the SIS and the teacher gradebook. Training materials include a detailed
Infinite Campus manual that outlines how a teacher gradebook should be developed and how grades should be
entered. APS employs full-time staff who provide ongoing support to schools on the use of the SIS.
However, even experienced teachers make mistakes in setting up the gradebook or entering their grades. In
addition, according to Infinite Campus staff, some teachers are less comfortable building and using the automated
gradebook than other teachers. In addition, in some cases, teachers are on leave during the grading periods and
may not be available to enter grades at the campus; in other cases, teachers may be new to the school (e.g., midyear hires), and may have little experience or training on the use of the gradebook. Similarly, some registrars may
be relatively new to the district, and therefore, not be able to assist new or inexperienced teachers. These, and
other factors, may account for some teachers posting grades late and/or asking registrars to update manually the
transcript file.
1.

The frequency and reasons that grades are changed vary somewhat across schools. The variations across
schools are, in part, because schools have different programs such as unit recovery and mastery grading,
partnerships with GSU and AMC, and different procedures for awarding credit for AP classes and notifying
parents of possible failing grades.
For example, two schools, Douglass HS and South Atlanta School of Law and Social Justice, appear to be
unique in that in 2014-2015 they had the largest number of cases where the use of remedial assignment, unit
recovery, and mastery grading were employed to provide students additional time and opportunities to pass

11

courses or improve low grades. Of the 388 such cases noted above, the larger majority were from these two
schools although several other schools employed the same practices including KIPP Collegiate, Alonzo Crim
Open Campus, Forrest Hill, and the South Atlanta School of Health, Science, and Research.
2.

Typically, grades are entered and, in some cases, changed as follows:


a.

Teacher gradebooks may vary considerably based on the subject taught and the number of grades
that teachers include in student grades. Variations may include the inclusion of homework, classwork,
tests, essays, projects, quizzes, and other assignments.

b.

Teachers update their gradebook throughout the school year as students take tests and complete
assignments. At the conclusion of each quarter, there is a window of about 7-15 days where the
teachers can make corrections and additions to the grade book.

c.

Before the end of these windows, the teacher must post the final grades to a grade score file.
This file is used at appropriate points during the school year to produce student report cards. Once
the window is closed, if a school needs to make corrections or changes, the school must request an
extension from the central office SIS team (who can, as appropriate, reopen the window).
For example, in spring 2015 the school and grading calendar was as follows:

May 22 Last day of classes for students


May 27 Last day for teachers (190 day employees)
May 27 Infinite Campus Grading Window closed (last day for teachers to post grades)
June 17 closing date for state student record used to calculate CCRPI
July 15 final date district is required to post all grades to transcript and send to GADOE.

d.

After final grades are posted by teachers, and the grade change window is closed (at the end of each
quarter), the central SIS team posts the final grades to the transcript file. The only way to modify
the transcript file is to manually make changes. In other words, schools can only post to the transcript
file once; they cannot repost from their gradebook to modify the transcript file.

e.

The purpose of the transcript file is to provide official grades to the State of Georgia (e.g., for use in
awarding Hope scholarships to students with GPAs greater than 3.0).

f.

While schools can continue to correct and update grades after the transcript file is sent to the state,
these changes will not be applied to the file that was sent to the Georgia Department of Education.

g.

It is this mandatory process of posting grades, closing windows, and then posting official grades to
the state (i.e., Georgia Department of Education) that results in cases where the grades in the
teachers gradebooks (and/or the grade score files) do not match the grades in the transcript file.

3.

The large majority of grade changes take place at the end of each semester, although for students on 4 X 4
schedules grade changes are also likely at the end of each quarter.

4.

Why would anyone, other than a teacher, be allowed to enter or change grades? There are several cases
where it would be important for other staff members to be able to access, enter and changes grades. For
example, there are frequent cases or instances where teachers leave school unexpectedly, or where they are
ill or have a family emergency, or there is a long-term substitute teacher for a course, and so on. In these
cases, it is important that students grades are posted and reported as required for report cards and state
reporting.

12

Findings and Recommendations


As noted above, the findings of this report are based largely a review of data from the IC Transcript Audit Reports.
Data for the past three years were reviewed. However, to understand and document current practices,
procedures, and reasons for grade changes, a detailed review of the 2014-2015 data was conducted.
In general, except for one school, the Transcript Audit Report data for 2012-2013, 2013-2014, and 2014-2015 are
similar (see table below).
Number of Grade Changes (by year)
District Total

2012-2013
2332

2013-2014
3471

2014-2015
2134

The one significant exception, in terms of the number of changes, was in 2013-2014 at South Atlanta School of Law
and Social Justice where there were 793 grade changes. (Because of complaints from staff about practices at the
school, an investigation of the schools practices was begun last fall and completed in May 2015. This is one the
eight investigations that were completed earlier this year and are noted above.)
It should also be noted that the number of grade changes varies somewhat by school across years. To better
understand these variations, as part of this review, particular attention was given to schools with larger number of
grade changes in 2014-2015, and the finding are discussed below. This examination included not only a review of
the data, but also interviews with appropriate central office staff, teachers, registrars, and principals.
Although 2,134 grade changes may appear to be a large number, it is important to note that in 2014-2015, there
were 11,556 high school students and each students received about 16 grades. In other words, the 2,134 changes
were in relation to about 185,000 total grades for these students. This is a rate of approximately 1 change out of
every 100 grades.
It might be assumed that all grade changes result in students receiving higher grades, or a change from a failing to
a passing grade. However, the data show a more complex set of circumstances and outcomes. For example, of the
2,134 changes, in only 50% of the cases was a numeric grade changed to a higher grade; in 24.9% of the cases the
grade was changed from a letter grade (e.g., incomplete) to a numeric grade; and in 25% of the cases the students
actually received lower grades.
Similarly, in less than half (741) of these changes were either from failing to passing grades or from letter grades
(such as incompletes) to passing grades. In many cases (889), while there was a grade change, it was correcting
or changing a passing grade to another higher or lower passing grade. The third big category of changes was grade
changes that resulted in failing final grades (481). The last small group (23) were grade changes that resulted in
letter grades such as incompletes.
In regard to the reasons for grade changes, again the circumstances and reasons vary among schools. As already
noted, over the past year, APS has completed eight investigations involving inappropriate grade changes (four
from the 2013-2014 school year and four from the 2014-2015 school year). This review did not identify additional
cases of serious inappropriate actions, although we did find inconsistencies in practice, lack of clarity in process,
and a lack of the necessary safeguards to prevent inappropriate activity.
It is important to note that this review was largely a data review. It focused specifically on data changes in the
Infinite Campus Transcript Audit Reports. Staff also reviewed and compared the data from the audit reports with
the data on the paper change forms used by schools. Additionally, interviews were conducted with central office
staff, teachers, registrars, and nine high school principals to review and analyze school and district practices,
district procedures and policies, and specific cases where large numbers of changes were made in 2014-2015.
However, it is important to note that, moving forward, the district will implement new workflow requirements and
closely monitor grade changes, and will continue to investigate thoroughly any additional accusations of
wrongdoing and/or inappropriate or questionable practices. (The district maintains a hot line for anyone to

13

anonymously call to reports misconduct, and employees, stakeholders, parents, and students are strongly
encouraged either to use the hot line or to contact directly the APS Employee Relations office or the
Superintendents office if they are concerned about any conduct, practice, or policy that seems questionable or
inappropriate.)
Among the recommendations presented in the report are several related to processes, policies, training, and
monitoring. It is clear from the review that the schools and district must improve in these areas to ensure the
integrity of the students grades.
The following sections outline the major specific finding related to grade changes. After each finding, a set of
recommendations or options are outlined. The findings are organized into two categories: Consistency of Practice
and Safeguards and Controls.

Consistency of Practice
1.

There appear to be inconsistencies in grading practices related to mastery grading.


Therefore, it is recommended that training and written procedures be developed and disseminated to guide
the implementation of unit recovery programs and or mastery grading. Key issues and practices that must be
addressed in the development of these procedures include:

2.

A mastery-grading approach provides students as many opportunities and as much time as


possible to improve their performance, skills, and knowledge, and show that they have mastered
them or met the standard.

However, to the extent possible, these opportunities should occur throughout the school year or
semester; if possible, teachers should not be waiting until the end of the semester or year to
ensure that students have multiple opportunities to learn and show what they can do. Similarly,
students also should not be waiting until the last minute to try to improve their grades.

However, it should also be noted that it is not the goal of mastery-based grading to require every
teacher to implement the program in exactly the same way. Teachers will continue to have
flexibility to determine how and when additional time and opportunities will be provided to
students (e.g., which tests, quizzes, assignments, projects, and writing assignments).

Similarly, there appear to be inconsistencies in grade changing practices related to credit recovery.
Again, clear guidance, policies, and training are needed to ensure consistent and equitable implementation of
credit recovery courses. Guidance concerning credit recovery must include following procedures and
requirements:

Since grades for Edgenuity courses are not entered like other grades in the teachers gradebook,
they should be entered in the Grade Score file, and then posted to the transcript (just as others
grades are posted).

Like all other grades, grades for credit recovery classes should be entered prior the close of the
grading window. (When this is done, a grade change form would not be needed since it grading
would be completed within the allowable grading window.)

In order to take a credit recovery course, a student must have already taken and received a
failing grade in the course.

If a student successfully completes a credit recovery course, the grade for that course does not
replace the previous failed grade; both grades will appear on the students transcript and both
will receive equal weight in the students Grade Point Average (GPA).

Typically, credit recovery courses begin with the student taking a pretest to determine which
standards the student has already mastered, and what standards (portion of the curriculum)
must repeat. As a result, the time required for students to complete the courses will vary widely
depending on past mastery, and the speed at which students learn and work.

14

3.

Grades should be entered as students complete the course; teachers do not need to wait until
the end of the semester to enter grades when a student completes a course early.

As noted above, the IC manual outlines the procedures for creating a gradebook and posting grades. However,
our review suggests that there are inconsistencies and misunderstandings about when and how grade changes
can be made. In addition, the data suggest that there is inconsistency concerning when grade changes need
to be documented. (For example, the data show that different practices are used across schools in cases
where a teacher corrects an error before grades are posted, before the grading window closes, before report
cards are sent home, and/or before the transcript file is posted.)
Therefore, it is recommended that several new procedural and document control functions be implemented
(see Safeguards and Controls below), and that policies and procedures concerning grading must be clarified
and/or developed to ensure clarity and consistency.

4.

It appears that while schools used similar forms that included similar information, one official form to
document Grade Changes and approvals has not been developed and/or disseminated for use by all schools.
Therefore, it is recommended that a new SharePoint form be created. In addition, a new workflow approval
process must be developed and implemented (see details below).

5.

Within the Infinite Campus (IC) system, schools use of the comment field has been inconsistent. Some
schools include a reason, date, and other information while other schools provide limited information, and
some schools frequently do not use the comment box at all (at least not for all changes).
If the above (#4) recommendations to develop a SharePoint form and SharePoint approval flow process are
implemented, it is recommended that schools not be required to complete the same type of information in
the IC comment field.
However, if it is determined that the IC comment field must be used (e.g., in addition to or instead of the
SharePoint form and process) it is recommended that the user-defined text boxes within the transcript
function be marked as required fields whenever a transcript is modified. The text box can hold up to 255
alphanumeric characters, and it is recommended that the field must include the reason for the change, name
of the person changing the grade, date the grade was changed, and the grade change request number
generated when the request is approved.

6.

In regard to the use of letter grades, again there appears to be inconsistency in how letter grades are used. For
example, one school apparently used the letter P in a way that most other schools used the letter I to
indicate that the students grade/work was incomplete at the time grades were reported and that the student
has been offered additional time and opportunities to completed missed, late, or inadequate work.
It is recommended that to comply with board policy, the use of alpha characters for grades 4-12 will be
restricted to I-Incomplete and NG-No grade/evaluation. In addition, all letter grades would be required to be
updated to numeric grades within some specific, reasonable period of time. (Currently, the policy is that
teachers have 4.5 weeks to update letter grades. This allows a teacher, for example, to update grades in the
fall for letter grades given in the spring.) If the teacher does not update a letter grade during this period, the IC
system or team would automatically update all such letter grades to the grade in the teachers gradebook.

Safeguards and Controls


7.

As noted above, there appears to inconsistency and poor controls related to grade changes, the
documentation of changes, following the appropriate approval process, and completion of the comment fields
in Infinite Campus.
Therefore, in addition to a new SharePoint form, a new workflow approval process must be developed and
implemented. As part of the approval process, it would be required that after the grading window closes, all
grade change requests be approved by the Principal and Associate Superintendent before generating an
approval number. Once the changes are approved, the approval would be forwarded to the central office IC
team. Only the central office IC team will be permitted to make grade changes after the grading window

15

closes. In addition, in the past, the central office did not have a way to monitor the approvals or changes.
Going forward, the IC team would be automatically notified of all grade changes. Once the approval process is
completed, the parent(s) would be automatically notified through the Infinite Campus Messenger. (It should
be noted that the practicality of this recommendation assumes that these new procedures and additional
training will reduce of the number of changes to a more manageable number.)
8.

Currently, all school staff (including teachers, registrars, administrators, and secretaries) have access to the
grading-by-task tool that permits anyone to manually enter grades into the final grade score file to directly
to transcript. This is a serious issue and virtually eliminates all controls over grade changing.
It is recommended that access to the grading-by task tool will be removed for all personnel. Charter schools
that do not use a traditional grading scale will receive access on a school-by-school basis.

9.

Similarly, it appears that there are too many people who have access and the ability to change grades.
(Currently, there are 484 unique users that have access to the registrar role in Infinite Campus that gives users
the ability to write and edit transcripts.)
Therefore, as part of the new effort to control the workflow approval process, the registrar rights would be
reset for all employees. Only two people per middle and high schools would then be given registrar rights. 4
Other staff (e.g., clerks and guidance counselors) would be given registration and enrollment rights but
they would not be able to access any student transcripts.

10. As noted above, once the grades are finalized and posted to the grade score file, the IC Grading Window is
closed, and a few days later either the school or CLL staff post the scores to the transcript file. According to
CLL staff, if a school does not post the grade then the Infinite Campus team posts the schools grades to the
transcript file so that CLL staff can then send (post) the official grades to the GADOE.
However, in what appears to be an unusual practice, apparently schools can still manually change the
transcript file at any time (even years later) although these changes are not sent to the state.
Therefore, as outlined above as part of the new approval workflow process, the ability for a school to change
transcripts after the grading window is closed will be eliminated.
11. In the past, school and central office staff did not regularly monitor grading practices or grade changes.
Therefore, as part of the new safeguards concerning grading practices, reports will be added to the data
dashboards that were developed in 2014-2015 to assist administrators with monitoring teacher gradebooks
and grade changes. These dashboards will, for example, identify:
All grade changes at the teacher, school, and district level
Courses where the teachers have not identified grading tasks
Course sections with grades (in gradebook) that do total 100%
Missing gradebook setups
Cases where there is no gradebook activity within some defined period of time
Courses with invalid state codes
The IC manager will be responsible for regularly monitoring and publishing the transcript audit report.
This report provides detailed data, analysis, findings and recommendations. Over the next few weeks, the
district will continue to examine related policies and practices. In some cases, it seems clear that additional
guidance and training for administrators, registrars, and teachers are needed. While this report is an important
step, it will be critical to involve all stakeholders as we continue to improve our standard operating procedures,
policies, communication, and training.

A person with registration rights would be able to add or edit names, addresses, and other demographic information, for
example; a person with enrollment rights would be able to build a students schedule; and a person with registrar rights
would be add/edit demographic data, schedule a student, and add and edit student transcripts (except for grade changes which
must be done by central office IC staff).

16