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Mistakes Allow Weak Students to Graduate : Education: Auditors cite flaws in keeping academic and attendance records in the Inglewood Unified School District, but say it isn’t the worst in the state.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Record-keeping deficiencies have allowed some students of the Inglewood Unified School District to graduate without meeting course or attendance requirements, according to a state audit.

The report, released this week by the state Office of the Auditor General, said some students in the state’s 48th-largest school district received credit for classes in which they received failing grades, and others graduated without passing a required proficiency test.

Acting Auditor General Kurt R. Sjoberg said the audit shows that the district has flaws, although it is not among the worst the state has reviewed.

“If I found this in the school where my kids attended I would be worried--not petrified,” he said. “The attention to detail that should be present might not be there, if students are slipping through the cracks. I wouldn’t want my son to graduate if he wasn’t prepared.”

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The district, which has 20 schools and 16,900 students, announced in response to the audit that it will begin in-service training for principals, teachers and counselors on how to maintain accurate academic and attendance records.

Board President Joseph Rouzan Jr. said he wants district officials to return to the school board within 45 days with a plan for solving the problems revealed in the audit. He said it indicates that the performance of some administrators and counselors must be reviewed.

“I don’t see anything in this report that can’t be fixed,” he said. “I think it gives us an opportunity to really shore up our system. . . . The average person would say the administration of this district is in chaos, but the report didn’t find that.”

The 89-page audit, requested in March by Assemblyman Curtis Tucker Jr. (D-Inglewood), is a follow-up to a state Department of Education review last year that revealed similar discrepancies in student records.

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“The district should look at this as a tool to let them know what they’re doing positively and negatively,” Tucker said.

The latest audit also found that Inglewood’s budgetary procedures and financial condition were sound, but discovered that some purchasing records were not adequately maintained. The report recommends that the district maintain documentation for all competitive bids and rewrite board policies that are outdated but still on the books.

The district has been told by the state to submit three progress reports: in 60 days, in six months and in a year.

The main deficiencies noted in the audit concerned discrepancies in academic and attendance records. The audit was conducted by reviewing a sampling of student records and teacher log books. The audit recommended that the district devise written guidelines to ensure more accurate record-keeping.

Of the 120 student transcripts reviewed in the audit, 35 showed discrepancies--such as transcript grades that did not agree with report card grades. Twenty-seven, or 23%, received passing grades in courses even though they did not meet minimum attendance requirements in those classes.

A sampling from Inglewood’s three high schools showed that seven of 29 graduates in 1990 and two of 17 graduates in 1991 did not meet minimum requirements. Five of the 46 students graduated even though the district could not document that they had passed the required proficiency test for graduating seniors.

“Failure to ensure that graduating seniors have satisfied state and district graduation requirements could result in . . . colleges, universities and employers . . . making admission or hiring decisions based on inaccurate information,” the report said.

Several schools were found to have incorrectly computed average daily attendance figures, shortchanging the district $56,000 in state funds. Another error--using the wrong number of school days in an attendance calculation--resulted in the district receiving $5,400 more that it was entitled to. The district is attempting to recover the balance.

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In a letter to the auditors that was included in the report, Supt. George McKenna explained that the district has undergone tremendous turnover in the past decade--three superintendents, four business managers, four personnel officers and numerous other changes. McKenna, who was unavailable Wednesday, has been on the job since the fall of 1988.

The district has been putting a renewed emphasis on student performance. Earlier this summer, the school board dismissed all its athletic coaches because district officials found they were not adequately preparing student athletes for college. The district has invited the coaches to reapply for their positions but only after they agree to better monitor the academic performance of team members.

District officials cited the case of Lisa Leslie, a former basketball star at Morningside High School who graduated among the top of her class in 1990 with a 3.5 grade-point average.

Leslie had to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test three times to get the minimum 700-point score needed to qualify for intercollegiate athletics. Now a USC sophomore, she said her education in Inglewood never prepared her for the college entrance exam and that she passed only after taking a prep class in Beverly Hills.


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