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Transcript Errors End College Plans Say Richmond Parents

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File Photo: Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Parents in Richmond say their children’s transcripts are reflecting the wrong information, and limiting their educational opportunities. While similar concerns have been raised in the past, this time around the pandemic seems to be a factor.

Students began remote classes in spring 2020. To mitigate the pandemic’s disruption of the ongoing school year, students were given the choice to have courses marked as “incomplete,” or “I,” instead of failing the course. 

Students were told an incomplete would not count toward their grade point average, but Betsy Milburn says it dropped her daughter’s GPA last spring.

It’s only one of several errors in her daughter’s transcript. One honors class was also miscoded, bringing down her GPA further, and several courses that are eligible for college credit are missing.

“It's kind of soured how she feels about higher education, because if high school can't get it right, then college can’t get it right,” Milburn said of her daughter’s decision not to continue her education after high school for the time being. She’s projected to graduate from RPS with an associate’s degree through the Early College Academy program.

In 2018, Milburn’s son’s transcripts also missed some courses because RPS had not coded them correctly. Back then, her son missed out on applying to several scholarships because his correct transcript was not available. 

“In the end, it ended up costing $10,000 more per year to send him to college,” Milburn said. This time around, she says other RPS parents may face the same barriers.

One such parent is Pam Turner. While her son’s transcript does not feature any “incomplete” courses, it has a number of other errors. Mainly, her son’s cumulative GPA does not add up when compared to the sum of his yearly averages. This results in his GPA dropping from a 4.1 to a 3.9.

Also, her son’s transcript says he attended Henrico High School in 9th grade, but he actually went to Richmond Christian Academy, and it says he took Advanced Band several times throughout middle and high school, but he only took the class once. 

“With him being a senior, at this point, it's too late to try to get him into any four year university,” Turner said. “Even getting into the community college at this point would be an issue, so basically, the way the transcript is, it’s hindering and holding up my son.”

Turner’s son has also missed the deadline to apply to several scholarships, so she says his college education has effectively been delayed by a semester at least. She says her son has autism, and knowing he’ll be behind his peers has also impacted his emotional state at home.

“My child is very frustrated because he's worked really, really hard,” Turner said.

RPS has not confirmed to VPM whether the mistakes in students’ transcripts were caused by an error in the GPA calculation formula, but in a March 25 email, Danielle Pierce, a spokesperson for the district, said they’re looking into the issue. 

“Students had until March 15, 2021 to complete the remaining coursework from Spring 2020. We are currently in the process of updating records so that the transcripts (and GPAs) reflect the completion of the Spring 2020 coursework,” Pierce wrote.

The district is expected to give a presentation to the Richmond School Board during an upcoming April board meeting.

Irregularities in RPS transcripts date back several years. In 2018, the Virginia Department of Education found several issues   during a district audit, such as miscoded course credits, incorrect attendance data and schools teaching courses that were not approved by the district.

It is unclear how many students may be impacted by the transcript errors this time around. RPS says if any families have concerns about their students’ transcripts, they can reach out at [email protected].

If you're an RPS parent with transcript issues, email the VPM News team.