Preuss Report Calls for Tighter Grade Security, Smaller Board

    Nearly a year after a controversial audit report detailed the habitual practice of illicit grade-tampering at UCSD’s Preuss School — a sixth- through 12th-grade charter institution — campus officials released a second review last week focused on investigating the school’s post-audit managerial practices.

    Conducted by an independent consulting firm, the 71-page report touches upon several problems perceived within the nationally acclaimed charter school, including the distribution of diplomas to students who met only district rather than school-specific graduation requirements and a school board deemed to be unwieldy in size and overly authoritative in nature.

    Additionally, while the report commends Preuss officials for improving upon the security and accuracy of grade reporting since the 2007 audit, recommendations were made to continue building upon existing internal controls, such as limiting access to the school’s grade-reporting system to only three key administrators.

    Despite these criticisms, Preuss officials view the latest report as generally positive. Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Paul Drake, who oversees portions of the school’s administration, said the review tells of the success Preuss has had in upholding its core educational mission.

    “I would be horrified if it came back and said ‘the school is not meeting its educational mission; it’s not taking underprivileged kids and getting them in college,’” Drake said. “It is. Over 90 percent are getting into college. It’s doing a fantastic job. It’s ranked among the top 10 schools in the nation. So, on fundamentals, it’s doing great. I read this report as saying ‘this is a fundamental success, how can it be even better?’”

    The report also deemed administrative practices not in line with those typically employed by other charter schools, including the school’s current managerial setup, which is less hierarchical than most.

    Chair of the Preuss School Board Sandra Daly attributed these deviations to the unique circumstances of the Preuss School.

    “Preuss is a middle school and a high school embedded in a university, and we have a management review team that is coming to this unique place to evaluate it, using as standards of reference charter schools that are not necessarily modeled this way and using language that doesn’t pertain to the way the university naturally operates,” Daly said.

    A number of recommendations were also made regarding the school’s current lack of cohesive policies and procedures in areas pertaining to management and internal operations. Daly said this criticism doesn’t necessarily reflect any major problem within the school’s administration or core ideals, but rather serves as a reminder of the importance of policy cohesion in running such an institution.

    “All they are trying to get us to appreciate is that it is important to write out the procedures that clearly describe who is responsible for what and when,” Daly said.

    Preuss came under fire late last year when an internally conducted audit revealed over 400 counts of incorrectly recorded grades, 72 percent of which the audit stated resulted in higher grades for the affected students. Controversy surrounding the audit’s findings led former Preuss principal Doris Alvarez to step down from her position in December 2007 amid what she referred to as pressure from the university.

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