An alternative high school operated by the Chicago Public Schools inside the Cook County Jail has been falsifying credits and attendance for hundreds of students for years, cheating some of the city’s most at-risk students of an education, the school system’s inspector general has found. In a report detailing a litany of academic fraud, Inspector General Nicholas Schuler called the York Alternative High School “a credit mill.” He urges firing its principal, Sharnette Sims, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. York has routinely granted attendance and course credit to students who already had left the jail or been moved to solitary confinement, where they couldn’t attend classes, Schuler said. In one case, he said, a student who had gotten out of jail and was killed a week later was still listed as attending class despite being dead.
The investigation, which looked at York’s practices back to 2012, was prompted by a Sun-Times column in which Neil Steinberg wrote that former teachers contacted him after he’d toured classrooms, “claiming the principal pressured them to give inmates credit for classes they never finished.” Schuler said other problems include a “deficient and dishonest course structure” — which was described as “blended learning” — that combined multiple courses in a single classroom under the direction of teachers who were unaware of which students needed which classes. One teacher reported a student getting course credit for watching a science documentary series by Neil deGrasse Tyson. “We agree having a diploma would be great,” Schuler said in an interview, but he added, “giving them credit for when they were in solitary confinement, that’s disingenuous. That isn’t real help. You’re depriving them of the benefit of an education.”