School at Cook County Jail reported phony attendance numbers

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The inspector general for the Chicago Public Schools announced Tuesday that an alternative high school inside Cook County Jail has been falsifying student credits and attendance for years.

Nicholas Schuler called the York Alternative High School "a credit mill," and is urging the firing of its principal, Sharnette Sims.

Schuler's seven-page report says York has routinely granted attendance and course credit to students who've left the jail or have been moved to solitary confinement, where they couldn't attend classes. There is an example of a student who had gotten out of jail and was killed a week later, but was still being listed as attending classes.

The report says from 2012 to 2016 about 342 students freed from jail were improperly kept on the attendance rolls.

According to Schuler, the school also had a "deficient and dishonest course structure" that combined multiple courses in a single classroom. He said they were under the direction of teachers who were unaware of which students needed which classes.

As a result, the program last year boasted some of the district's highest attendance and credit-attainment metrics of the city's "options schools" for students who have dropped out of traditional high schools or are in confinement.

"However, the (inspector general's office) found that those scores were inflated due to falsified data," Schuler's office said in the report.

The district received a copy of the inspector general's findings at the end of June, according to officials.

"When we received these alarming allegations we began a process to thoroughly review the inspector general's findings," district spokesman Michael Passman said. "That process remains underway, and we will respond appropriately based on the facts when our review is complete."

Sims, who was paid $139,000 last year to oversee the jail school, didn't respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

In addition to the county jail program, Chicago's school district operates a similar high school program at the county's temporary juvenile detention center, a school for pregnant women and a program for students who are at risk of dropping out.