PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) released Wednesday the results of its investigation into claims of graduation inflation, where students in Providence were alleged to have received credits to graduate they may not have earned.

The investigation was launched after allegations surfaced over the summer from Providence School Board member Ty’Relle Stephens, who claimed around two dozen students earned 15 credits – the equivalent of three years of education – in roughly one month.

RIDE’s investigation, led by Providence Deputy City Solicitor Charles Ruggerio, stated that the claims were unfounded and the students properly earned their credits.

“The question that we were trying to answer was whether there was grade inflation, and the investigation found that there was none,” Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said. “What it did find was that there is some systems and processes that need to be put in place in order for us to have better documentation and better communication among schools.”

The students were allegedly sent to A-venture Academy’s over-age and under-credited program to make up credit. The report says seven identified students properly earned the credits awarded while in the program, adding that the allegations resulted from difficulties by A-venture staff, like navigating a new virtual learning program.

“After public scrutiny and a review of hundreds of documents, one thing remains crystal clear – the diplomas have merit,” A-Venture Academy director John Gallo said in a statement. “My faculty and staff remain stalwartly focused on the needs of students, each of whom earn their right to cross the graduation stage with pride.”

“Part of the challenge is because it’s a program and not an actual school. They had to work with the different guidance counselors from schools to input the data because they didn’t have the actual school number,” Infante-Green explained.

RIDE has pledged to make some changes in light of this, such as utilizing electronic grade books and providing better training to guidance counselors.

But some believe an independent investigation is needed.

Stephens and two other Providence School Board members, Jesus Nunez and Night Jean Muhingabo, issued a statement Wednesday saying they expected this kind of outcome from an internal investigation and would like to see an independent probe take place.

“We question the fact that Commissioner Infante–Green and Superintendent Javier Montañez are opposing an independent investigation that will be paid for by the mayor’s office,” the statement read. “We would like to know if nobody has done anything wrong, why can’t it be proven through an independent investigation?”

“We received to many compliments to trust the outcome of this investigation,” the statement continued. “We stand in support of an independent investigation by an external vendor, a reputable law firm. It’s our sincere hope the Commissioner Infante-Green will do the right thing.”

A Senate Oversight Hearing on the matter is scheduled for next Wednesday. State Sen. Lou DiPalma has said he would also like to conduct an independent investigation.

Read the full report here: