August 29, 2008
DVC’s Grade-Change Response Criticized
By Matt Krupnick
PLEASANT HILL -- Diablo Valley College has not sufficiently improved computer security after a six-year-long grade-changing scheme, accreditors have told the school.The school had yet to solve some problems discovered during a campus visit last year, said the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges in a letter sent to DVC leaders this week. The commission five months ago told the school to correct deficiencies by June.
This time, DVC was given an official warning, said Barbara Beno, the commission's executive director. If the school fails to complete the fixes within the next year, it could lose its accreditation, she said.
"Security of student records is really an important issue, as far as integrity goes," Beno said Wednesday. "If you can't trust student records, that's not a good situation."
Accreditors became concerned about DVC after the Times revealed in January 2007 that hundreds of grades had been changed in exchange for cash over the course of six years. Student employees in the school's records office changed grades for dozens of students from DVC and Pittsburg's Los Medanos College.
More than 50 people have been charged with felonies in the case, making it perhaps the largest criminal grade-changing case in U.S. history. About 15 have taken plea deals in exchange for jail time or home detention.
Investigators found that dozens of employees -- many of them students -- had access to transcripts. Some students paid thousands of dollars to improve their grades, using credit cards to take out cash advances.
In some cases, students transferred to universities using the fake grades; most were expelled or had degrees rescinded.
In this week's letter, Beno emphasized that DVC's accreditation continues. But she also said the college is being warned because of "a concern regarding the ability of the institution to meet accreditation standards."
DVC has made good progress, the commission found, but needs to make additional changes, including shifting control over student records from computer technicians to student-services administrators.
The college will complete the changes long before its accreditation is truly risked, said DVC President Judy Walters.
"We consider our academic integrity the heart and soul of what makes DVC a great institution," she said. "What they're really telling us is, 'OK folks, you need to do just a little more.'
"The things they have identified are things we need to do."
Matt Krupnick covers higher education. Reach him at 925-943-8246 or [email protected]
MAJOR recommendations-- Shift grade oversight from the college district's information-technology department to student services.-- Limit approval of grade access to a high-level administrator.-- Form a team of administrators to oversee grade management.
Originally published by Matt Krupnick , Contra Costa Times.
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