December 12, 2007
Dear Members of the UC San Diego campus community:
Today we are releasing the results of an audit of The Preuss School. We are eager to share with you the findings and our plans to address concerns identified in the audit.
We’re very proud of the achievements of The Preuss School. In its relatively short history, Preuss School has become known as one of the top high schools in the nation, and has provided many promising, underserved students with a high quality education. With its top 10 rankings in Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report, The Preuss School is a great source of pride for the University of California, UCSD and the San Diego community and we continue to have a high level of confidence in the school, its mission, and its students.
Since early summer, The Preuss School has been undergoing an audit that was initiated at the request of the Chair of the Preuss School Advisory Board after he was presented with allegations that student grades may have been inappropriately altered.
After several months of intensive review, Audit and Management Advisory Services has identified deficiencies in several aspects of The Preuss School’s management and internal controls, including the management of student information systems, preparation of student transcripts, staffing of the Registrar position, and retention of documentation supporting student grades and authorized grade changes.
Among the most significant of the findings, auditors found 427 instances of incorrect grade recording. Out of the 190 transcripts examined in the audit, 144 (75%) included one or more incorrect grades. The Preuss School lacked the necessary background documentation of grade changes. At no time during this review were students found to be involved.
With the assistance of staff in the UC San Diego Registrar’s office, the transcripts of all current students whose grades were recorded incorrectly have now been corrected. In addition, before college admission deadlines, the transcripts and admissions packages prepared for our 2008 Preuss School graduates were thoroughly reviewed and verified with the assistance of staff in the UCSD Admissions Office.
We want to assure our Preuss School students, the faculty and staff, and all who take rightful pride in the accomplishments of The Preuss School: we will establish and maintain rigorous procedures to ensure the integrity of The Preuss School’s academic records. We will ensure that we continue to communicate that message to the many colleges and universities that will consider our students for admission.
In response to the audit findings, we are instituting a series of corrective actions that we would like to share with you. These actions will result in greater management oversight and more stringent internal controls. We believe these changes will reflect our commitment to the highest standards of accuracy and accountability.
Scott Barton will continue as Acting Principal of The Preuss School until the conclusion of the academic year. The Senior Advisor previously placed on paid administration leave will return to the School. We will make other personnel changes, as appropriate.
We will engage an external consulting firm with expertise in charter schools to conduct a more complete review of Preuss School operations. Our corrective action plan also includes:
- Administrative oversight of Preuss activities will be assigned to Interim Vice Chancellor – Resource Management & Planning, Gary Matthews.
- Administrative access to change student grades will be limited to the newly designated Preuss School Registrar and one additional individual for back-up purposes. Employees will not be given system access to the academic records of their children or near relatives.
- Teacher grade sheets will be co-signed by the Registrar upon entry into the student information system.
- The existing document retention policy will be adhered to for the filing and retention of signed teacher grade sheets and associated grade change authorization forms. The implementing procedures will include the location where such documents are to be stored.
- Preuss School training and staff development activities will include an annual session specific to ethics, and personal rights and responsibilities for all faculty and staff.
- Action will be taken to confirm that the School’s computer system’s audit feature has been enabled and is working properly.
- The capabilities of the computer system will be compared to the capabilities of the San Diego Unified School District’s system, and a resulting system change will be made as appropriate.
- During the audit all the transcripts for 2008 graduating seniors were thoroughly evaluated. With the assistance of the UCSD admissions office, Preuss School will continue to review the accuracy of transcripts for all other current Preuss School students.
- Preuss School administration, under the direction of the UCSD Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, will develop an internal grade suppression policy that will mirror SDUSD Policy.
Board of Directors and Academic Affairs Oversight
- An assessment of best practices for charter schools will be reviewed.
- Academic Affairs and the Board will identify and develop additional performance measurement criteria for the operation of the School and long-term success of the students.
- We will review The Preuss School charter and make appropriate revisions to strengthen accountability and oversight.
- We will develop a well-defined evaluation process for the Principal and administrative staff that includes an annual evaluation with written Board input.
- UCSD executive management will require preparation of a comprehensive annual report by the Principal to UCSD and to the Preuss School Board of Directors.
- The UCSD external review directed by the Chancellor of Preuss School operations will evaluate alternative means to offer Preuss School teachers a direct line of communication to the Board and/or Academic Affairs to voice concerns over school issues. As UC employees, all Preuss School staff members have access to the University Ombudsperson, the Netclaims program, as well as other internal avenues.
- We will consider teacher contract periods of longer than one year, or renewable contracts based on a defined set of criteria made available to teachers at the time the contract is signed.
- We will identify revisions in the timing for the contract renewal periods to allow those leaving ample time to seek employment in other school settings.
- Preuss School Personnel Policies will be reviewed and, as appropriate, revised to align with current versions of University and applicable SDUSD policies adopted by Preuss School, and to include additional policy deficiencies noted by Human Resources.
- UCSD executive management, working with Human Resources, will ensure exit interviews are done with those teachers or administrators whose contracts have not been extended or who leave voluntarily. In addition, UCSD executive management will consider career appointments for Preuss School administrative staff.
The audit is available here.
Be assured that UC San Diego is committed to implementing all corrective measures needed to ensure the high academic standards and ethical principles that have made this school a model for the city, state, and nation.
Thank you for your continued support and enthusiasm for The Preuss School. Please feel free to contact us if you have additional questions.
Marye Anne Fox
Senior Vice Chancellor – Academic Affairs