Reality Check: More than 1/3 Murphy High seniors failing

MOBILE, Ala. (WPMI) - Graduation rates continue to rise for Mobile County Public Schools. MCPSS recently announced an 86 percent graduation rate system wide. Murphy High School's graduation rate was even higher. ACT test scores show less than 15 percent of Murphy Students tested college ready in all four subjects. Local 15 News discovered more than a third of Murphy High School seniors are failing one or more classes.

In about two months, school officials expect 533 Murphy High School Seniors to graduate.

"A lot of seniors here don't really care about class because they think they're going to graduate either way it goes," said Murphy student Kyrique Davis.

Local 15's Modupe Idowu learned as of February 25th, 188 of Murphy's graduating seniors, are failing one or more classes.

"I'm not surprised at all," said Davis. "They don't go to class especially the seniors."

Local 15 secured emails allegedly sent by 12th grade counselor Paula Estes alerting teachers of the staggering numbers.

On February 25th, she wrote:

At this time, there are 188 seniors who are failing one or more classes. Yesterday, Dr. Smith and I spoke with approximately 60 of these darlings. I am begging, pleading, and will buy chocolate if you will please work with them to make up missed work or re-take any test that they failed. Saturday school is a great resource! And if I need to, I can hold some after school sessions. If there is anything that I can do to help with this, please let me know! And, I KNOW, many do not deserve this opportunity, but any help would be appreciated!

"It's like they're really not learning anything because if you do it right the first time, you wouldn't have to reteach and retest," said concerned parent Rosalind Crum. Her daughter attends Murphy.

According to school officials, the reteach/retest policy only allows students to retake a test once.

Local 15's sources said the retesting process continues until the student passes.

"There needs to be a cap on that," said concerned parent Misty Ray Hankins. "They shouldn't be given ample opportunity because then there is no drive."

Her son attends Murphy High School.

She added, "They don't have to push themselves."

Local 15's Modupe Idowu asked Superintendent Martha Peek about the numbers, "Do you think there should be reevaluation there?"

Peek said, "As I said when you bring out that data what we'll need to do is go back and verify and look at it."

Later in the interview, Peek said she is pleased Murphy High School officials are taking to help students graduate on time.

"I think probably if you looked at that, that was mid-term that was came from an administrator saying there needs to be attention given. There is remediation available," said Peek.

According to the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, remediation for MCPSS students continues in their post-secondary education. Local 15 News first reported in October that nearly a third of MCPSS who attend college have to take remedial courses according to PARCA.

According to MCPSS, 88 percent of Murphy High School Seniors graduated on time.

According to PARCA, only 11 percent of Murphy students tested proficient in English, math, reading, and science on the ACT in 2015. The number drops to 9 percent system wide. The test evaluates college readiness. According to MCPSS, the test scores are lower because all students had a chance to take the ACT. In years past, only college bound students took the test.

"I think we've become so focused on one test that we have forgotten that the purpose is to measure academic progress and not a summative evaluation," said Supt. Peek.

According to PARCA, the state considers a student college ready if they test at or above the college-ready bench mark in at least one of four subjects. Records show 49 percent of Murphy's students tested proficient in English, 28 percent in Reading, 20 percent in Math, and 21 percent Science.

Idowu asked Peek, "The reteach/retest policy, do you still think that's an effective way of teaching students?"

Peek replied, "Yes I do. I think that it's very effective. I think that in a number of professions in life there's a retake on test."

Over the years, MCPSS graduation rates continue to climb upward.

Less than 10 percent of MCPSS students tested proficient in all four subjects.

Peek stresses graduates are college ready, but parents like Crum question if their child's high school diploma reflects scholastic achievement.

"It's really like they're just giving them a diploma," said Crum. "They haven't learned anything, and then where are they going to go from there?"

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