Gov. Larry Hogan calls for criminal investigation into Baltimore City schools grading practices

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Gov. Larry Hogan is calling for a criminal investigation into the Baltimore City school system after the state’s education watchdog found inconsistencies among teachers, assistant principals and principals changing failing grades to passing ones.

The Office of the Inspector General for Education’s recommended this week that Maryland State Department of Education authorize a performance audit of the city school system after its investigators found differing interpretations, applications and adherence to grade change procedures among high school staff.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (pictured in April) said the report’s findings demonstrate a “staggering level of disregard for the integrity of the educational system and a clear lack of accountability at the highest levels.”

The investigation centered largely on teachers and administrators rounding up grades when a student was within one to three percentage points of passing. The minimum passing grade for a city school student is 60%. Officials identified more than 12,500 instances across the system where grades were changed from a fail to a pass between 2016 and the end of the 2019-20 school year.

Grade changes may happen for a variety of reasons, system leaders told investigators, such as when a student works with their teacher to complete missing assignments.


However, investigators also found that some principals and assistant principals directed educators to automatically bump all 58% and 59% grades up to a passing grade, according to redacted emails included in the report. It was not immediately clear how the blanket policies of rounding up failing grades impacted matriculation or graduation rates.

In a statement Thursday, Hogan said the report’s findings demonstrate a “staggering level of disregard for the integrity of the educational system and a clear lack of accountability at the highest levels.”

The Republican governor referred the matter to the Maryland State Prosecutor and U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland for further investigation.

A representative for the U.S. Attorney confirmed the governor’s letter was received but said the office does not confirm or deny investigations. State Prosecutor Charlton Howard said his office also does not comment on the status of investigations but confirmed he had received the governor’s letter.

“We will review and take action as appropriate,” he said.

Representatives for Baltimore City school system and the Office of the Inspector General for Education did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

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In a statement posted to the system’s website, officials said city schools fully cooperated with the inspector general for education during its nearly three-year review of grading policies.

“We’ve also committed to a fresh audit of current grading outcomes during the 2022-23 school year,” officials stated. “If they are interested, City Schools is open to sharing information and insight with other governmental entities, pursuant to their statutory authority, to ensure a clear understanding of student grading.”


City school leaders defended the school system on Wednesday, stating that incidents cited in the report largely occurred before a grading policy change in 2019 and “did not illustrate systemwide pressure to change grades.”

The inspector general’s investigators did not find violations of the law or financial improprieties, the earlier statement noted.

Hogan’s statement called out the city school administration and said children have been denied the education they deserve.

“Beyond the legal implications, there has been a clear moral failing by school administrators who appear more concerned with their own image than with the well-being of their students,” he said. “This scandal has broken the bonds of trust between city officials and parents, students and taxpayers.”

The governor has frequently taken the city school system to task for chronic issues related to student achievement and weather-related closures. Spokesman Michael Ricci declined to comment when asked why the governor believed criminal investigation was warranted.