Anderson County Grade Fixing Scandal Takes Down Principal, Football Coach

The scandal provides credit recovery options for struggling students like a chance to retake coursework, stay in school and graduate on time.

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Allegations of grade fixing at an Anderson County high school have taken down a popular high school principal, the head football coach, two teachers and three counselors.

Meanwhile, local education leaders have declined to take questions about how 1,500 grades were allegedly altered during the last school year at Clinton High, a school with 1,200 students located northwest of Knoxville.

At a packed school board meeting last week, parents and other community members showed up prepared to address the board about the growing scandal, but never got the chance.

The meeting was abruptly adjourned less than 15 minutes after it began, with no opportunity for public comment — a potential violation of the state’s open meeting law.

“The Clinton community deserves an investigation and review that is open and transparent,” said Worrick Robinson IV, an attorney representing former Clinton High School Principal Daniel Jenkins.

Jenkins resigned in May after being accused of directing instructors to change grades — allegations he has since denied.

The grade-fixing scandal in Anderson County centers on so-called credit recovery — an option to give struggling students a chance to retake coursework, stay in school and graduate on time.

The online programs, purchased by county school boards, have been the subject of controversy in recent years for their lack of oversight by state education officials and the ease with which grades can be manipulated, according to Carolyn Heinrich, a professor of Public Policy and Education at Vanderbilt University.

The programs allow students to retake coursework, then take multiple tests that assess their mastery of a course, module by module.

But the module grades can be easily changed by instructors who are able to manually override grades or put students in “test only” mode allowing them to skip computer instruction and go straight to taking tests.

Heinrich said her research, which focused on the Edgenuity credit recovery program that was also used by Anderson County, has shown that kids working in test-only mode can easily cheat, relying on Google for answers.

That is, in part, what happened at Clinton High, according to Rachel Jones, a teacher who was administering the credit recovery program and the source of many of the accusations implicating other staff members.

Jones, who has since been fired, told school officials she was responsible for 485 score changes “many of which were skipped questions until a desired student grade was achieved,” according to a “charges of dismissal” document obtained by the Lookout.

She also said students cheated while using the test-taking software by looking up answers on their phones.

Jones, who did not respond to the Lookout’s request for comment, told county education officials she changed grades at the request of Jenkins, the school principal, and school counselors, the dismissal document said.

Jones also implicated Darrel Keith, who served as Clinton High’s football coach for four years until his contract wasn’t renewed last month amid Jones’ allegations.

Jones said the coach told her to “replace the grades” of a football player in danger of failing.

Like Jenkins, Keith has denied wrongdoing.

“Yeah, it’s unfortunate when allegations unproven can ruin a person’s image,” Keith said via text message. Keith called the allegations against him “hearsay” and said he did not have the ability to change any student’s grades.

A second Clinton teacher administering the credit recovery program admitted to changing 1,009 grades in a four-month period, according to the disciplinary documents.

The instructor, Clay Turpin, also blamed Jenkins and other school counselors.

“While he claimed he was never instructed…to change student scores, Turpin did again recall Dan Jenkins making it clear he wanted credit recovery students’ grades to be above a 60 so they could get out of courses/school.”

Turpin said he often sat students down on the credit recovery software in “test only mode” which allowed them to skip lengthy online instruction then Google answers to their tests and quizzes.

One student, for example, completed an entire geometry course in one hour and 46 minutes, according to the disciplinary documents.

Turpin could not be reached for comment.

Tennessee Lookout is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Tennessee Lookout maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Holly McCall for questions: info@tennesseelookout.com. Follow Tennessee Lookout on Facebook and X.

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