Audit: El Paso schools were 'diploma mills'

2013-04-02T00:00:00Z Audit: El Paso schools were 'diploma mills'The Associated Press The Associated Press
April 02, 2013 12:00 am  • 

EL PASO - A scandal-plagued west Texas school district found that systematic test rigging and grade manipulation that sent one educator to prison continued long after his arrest, according to an audit released Monday.

The El Paso Independent School District commissioned the $800,000 outside audit by the Austin-based accounting firm Weaver and Tidwell LLP into the scandal that resulted in a 3 1/2-year federal prison fraud sentence for former Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia.

The district hired the auditor under orders from the Texas Education Agency.

A message left with a district spokeswoman Monday evening was not returned.

"It is important to remember that for a period of some 5 1/2 years the district was run by a criminal," the auditors wrote. "Garcia insulated and surrounded himself with willing accomplices, and his influence and reach were vast. The district has since suffered from a culture that has put the desires and egos of adults over the needs of students."

"The district also engaged in improperly retaining students in ninth grade or advancing students from (ninth) to 11th grade to avoid state and federal accountability requirements," the report stated.

Faculty members also awarded credits, in many cases unearned, to students in danger of not graduating, according to the report.

Long after Garcia's arrest and resignation on Aug. 1, 2011, "many of these practices continued unabated," the auditors said.

"In the rush to avoid accountability consequences for inadequate graduation rates, many district high schools became credit mills and, eventually, diploma mills as unearned credits resulted in the graduation of ill-prepared students. These students are the victims of the culture Garcia promulgated and it is not a culture easily undone," the report stated.

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