Thomas Jefferson H.S. senior wants RPS to get its act together

Nia Tariq | 5/24/2019, 6 a.m.
Treyshaun Bailey believes the way Richmond Public Schools is handling requirements for graduation is harming young Richmonders’ chances at graduating ...

Treyshaun Bailey believes the way Richmond Public Schools is handling requirements for graduation is harming young Richmonders’ chances at graduating through no fault of their own.

“I just felt like that was wrong, like you’re messing up people’s grades and transcripts,” the Thomas Jefferson High School senior said. “That’s messing up college and stuff like that … it’s just all in one mix.”

Treyshaun was offering his view on a controversial report that Tracy Epp, Richmond Public Schools’ chief academic officer, provided the Richmond School Board on Monday night indicating that at least 280 seniors would not graduate and would need to attend summer school or return for courses next year to complete diploma requirements.

Ms. Epp’s report was an update to a Virginia Department of Education audit in November that found at least 20 problems in the transcripts for seniors who started 9th grade in the 2015-16 school year.

Along with updating transcripts, Ms. Epp noted that she and her staff were focusing on changes that would prevent future problems, including remedying course selection and scheduling, ensuring students’ progress toward graduation was properly tracked and installing practices and technology to prevent further neglect of crucial student data.

Although Treyshaun is on track to graduate this June and play football for Vermillion Community College in Ely, Minn., in the fall, he’s concerned that some of his peers are facing barriers to graduation that RPS officials created or failed to adress.

“Blood, sweat and tears in class — you still get your work done, you come out with a good grade — but on the transcript and on the percentages for graduating, it doesn’t look like that,” he said. “I just feel like that’s wrong.”

Only 20 of the 113 seniors at Thomas Jefferson — that’s 18 percent — have been identified as “on track” to graduate in June, Ms. Epp reported. Another 72 seniors are considered likely to graduate next month. According to RPS data, 21 Thomas Jefferson students either must attend summer school to complete diploma requirements or return next year.

“(When) you’ve got percentages graduating, you’re making us look bad, like we don’t know anything. That’s not fair to us, that we have to sit back and not do anything about it,” Treyshaun said.

In order to graduate with a standard diploma this year, according to the Virginia Department of Education, members of RPS’ senior class must have completed 22 standard credits and earned six verified credits. A verified credit means a student has passed a state Standards of Learning test in a core subject such as English, math, science or history, in addition to passing the class itself.

Seniors also must have passed at least one “virtual” or online class and have earned a career and technical education credential.

“By far, (lacking verified credits) is the most common reason for a student being at risk,” according Ms. Epp’s report. The report states that approximately 330 seniors have not met the requirement for six verified credits, though a majority could do so with SOL tests now being taken.

Treyshaun said that passing a course, but not the SOL is not unusual.

“I had a couple of friends who that happened to,” Treyshaun said. “They went to their parents about it and their parents came up (to the school), and it caused a big conflict because that shouldn’t be what you have to do to get a credit in that class.”

RPS previously awarded a local verified credit automatically if the student passed the course and came close to passing the SOL test with a score of 375 to 390. Ms. Epp stated that that policy changed and every case must be reviewed.

Another 130 seniors might not get a diploma because they lack a required career and technical education credential, and another 70 seniors students might not get a diploma because they did not take all of the required courses due to faulty schedules.

That’s a total of 530 students who need to pass one or more SOL tests or complete other requirements. At least 280 of the seniors must attend summer school or return next year.

“Y’all have got to find a way to fix that because y’all have kids out here looking bad (who) actually know what they’re doing,” Treyshaun said.

Moving forward, Ms. Epp reported to the board that seniors and their parents have been notified as to whether additional courses will be needed to earn a diploma. She stated that RPS is seeking to help by offering remediation to help students do better on an SOL retest.

Also, the school sytem is making sure summer school will give students the opportunity to complete the one or two courses needed to fulfill diploma requirements.