Gompers Preparatory Academy, a public charter school in Southeast San Diego, is shown in this photo from 2017. (Brandon Quester/inewsource)

The association tasked with accrediting charter schools confirmed Tuesday it is looking into allegations of grade inflation documented in inewsource’s investigation of San Diego’s Gompers Preparatory Academy.

Fred Van Leuven, president of the Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges, stressed that the process had just begun and the agency wasn’t confirming any wrongdoing.

He has taken the first step and reached out to Gompers for comment, Van Leuven said. From there, the commission has a range of options to pursue allegations.

“Lack of integrity has been an issue that has resulted in schools losing their accreditation,” Van Leuven stated.

Gompers Preparatory Academy
Read the original inewsource investigation.

Tuesday night’s board meeting at Gompers was well attended by students and administration, as well as a few parents. One spoke during the public comment period, commending the school and recommending the press focus on its positive aspects. Another took issue with the inewsource investigation.

“I think that this school has been targeted because of the minorities that attend here,” said Shamika Shropshire, a parent of two Gompers students.

“I don’t think they like to see us succeed, I don’t think they like to see us prosper in this world. This story may sound like the sweetest cake to some people, but it’s horrible to me. Because I’m on the inside looking out, and I’ve also been on the outside looking in, and I think this school has done a wonderful job in educating my two children.”

Gompers is a charter school that serves sixth through 12th grades in the Chollas View neighborhood in southeastern San Diego. It has been held up as a success story because it changed from a school that once was riddled with gangs and drugs, low attendance and high teacher turnover into an institution that promises every student will be prepared for college.

Fourteen former students and teachers contacted inewsource Tuesday, many reinforcing the story that used data, documents and on-the-record interviews to expose questions about the quality of education at Gompers.

That makes 25 former students and teachers who have alleged serious problems at the school.

Teachers described pressure at Gompers to pass failing students and intimidation if they refused. Several said they were told they were murdering or killing kids by giving them F’s.

All talked about their dedication to students who had heartbreaking personal stories and came from homes where college was not an expectation.

Cecil Steppe, Gompers founder and board chair poses for a portrait outside the school. Photo by Brandon Quester, inewsource.

Julie Golokow Lloyd, who taught at Gompers from 2009 to 2016, defended the school, its vision and the dedication of the teachers and staff.

“I personally was never asked to inflate grades, and have never heard of anyone being asked to do so. If a student was failing, we were offered over-time pay to tutor the student,” she wrote to inewsource. “We were asked to provide many services that the parents were expected to provide when their child was struggling in school, in other neighborhoods and districts. Another way of closing the socio-economic gap between privileged and under-privileged.”

Lloyd concluded, “Just as I played a part in nurturing GPA students, GPA played a part in nurturing me. I am the woman I am today because of the experiences, relationships, work ethic, and REACH Values I learned from being a member of the GPA family. I will forever be grateful for the experiences and the experience that Gompers provided me.”

Former students who were interviewed or posted on social media Tuesday talked about how they struggled in college after graduation from Gompers, unprepared for the academic rigors of a school such as UCSD.

Felipe Morfin Martinez told inewsource, “I’ve been saying the same exact thing to everyone — all of my classmates and my parents.” Martinez graduated from Gompers last year and is now at UCSD.

[box]Are you a current or former teacher or student? Contact the reporter on this story at bradracino@inewsource.org to share your experience at Gompers.[/box]

Some people who identified themselves as parents or former students shared the inewsource story and expressed anger, disbelief and defensiveness on Facebook.

“I still remember arguing with some teachers when I asked for a challenge, and wanting to learn more,” one former student wrote. “Gompers was able to get us into college, but it didn’t help us prepare for it.”

Another student posted on Facebook: “you have a choice either you listen or don’t……either you study or you don’t …and if you decide to dropout that’s not the schools fault that’s you ….College is not easy if college was easy everyone would be graduating…”

The student concluded, “just please stop blaming the school…because Gompers actually cares …..”

“I’ve always supported everything the school does,” one parent wrote on Facebook. “After reading this I have mixed feelings sad, confused, upset.”

Gompers provided some data about its graduates to inewsource for its initial story. It showed that 59.6 percent of the 89 college-bound students from the class of 2014 were still enrolled one year later. Gompers also provided data that said 14 of the 19 students who went to UCSD on a full ride in 2015 are still in school as of April 2017.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse, 72 percent of U.S. students who started college in fall 2014 remained in college the following fall.

inewsource requested data on retention rates from UCSD and should be receiving it soon.

inewsource reached out to the school’s director, Vincent Riveroll, for a comment on this story. He did not respond.

More in the series…

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[one_third]Gompers Preparatory Academy[/one_third]

[two_third_last]Data, teachers’ allegations undermine Gompers’ college-ready promise
Data, documents and interviews contradict the Gompers brand of preparing every student for college. Teachers say grades are inflated, and if students still can’t graduate, they are “counseled” to attend school elsewhere. The same teachers who praise the director’s talent blame him, saying he shames educators who assign failing grades by telling them they are “murdering” kids.

[divider style=”4″]

[one_third]An explanation of the data methodology for the May 2017 inewsource investigation into Gompers Preparatory Academy. [/one_third]

[two_third_last]Standardized test scores: How we crunched the data
The inewsource investigation into Gompers Preparatory Academy, in addition to dozens of interviews with former students, teachers and key stakeholders, relied on the results of this data to compare Gompers to schools across the San Diego Unified School District, San Diego County and total individual schools in California.[/two_third_last]

[divider style=”4″]

Felipe Morfin Martinez, a former student at Gompers Preparatory Academy, is a communications pre-major at UCSD. He posed for a portrait on May 17, 2017 inside of the Biomedical Library. Megan Wood, inewsource.

[two_third_last]Despite A’s at Gompers, former student talks about feeling unprepared
A Q&A with Felipe Morfin Martinez, who graduated from Gompers in 2016 and was awarded a full-ride scholarship to the University of California San Diego where he is studying communications.

[divider style=”4″]


[two_third_last]Teacher of the Year urges Gompers’ community to be accountable
Maria Miller, a former Teacher of the Year at Gompers Preparatory Academy, described her history with, feelings toward and recommendations concerning the Chollas View charter school at the center of inewsource’s ongoing investigation.

Brad Racino was the assistant editor and senior investigative reporter at inewsource. He's a big fan of transparency, whistleblowers and government agencies forgetting to redact key information from FOIA requests. Brad received his master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri in...