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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.