published Sunday, July 28th, 2013

2 Alabama teachers allege pressure to change grades

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Two Montgomery Public Schools teachers have alleged that they felt pressured to make improper grade changes.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported Sunday that Pamela West and Gardenia Wilson told the Montgomery County Board of Education they thought the decision to transfer them to other schools stemmed from their refusal to give students easier work to raise their grades.

Board members and district spokesman Tom Salter have denied the allegations. Salter says teachers are responsible for giving students multiple opportunities to learn and earn a passing grade if they fail to master a concept.

Last year, 20 teachers in the district said they had either witnessed or participated in thousands of grade changes to lower the district’s failure rates.

Educators said the pressure to change grades or give easier work was an abuse of an initiative called Response to Intervention — which is designed to help struggling students relearn coursework to keep them from getting a failing grade.

Many teachers have said RTI was born of good intentions, but was prone to abuse from school administrators looking to lower student failure rates.

The state Department of Education found that seven Montgomery Public Schools employees had misused RTI to improperly change grades for about 200 students. Six of the employees were suspended and were later reinstated to their position.

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