Significant number of D.C. traditional public school high school diplomas last year should not have been awarded

The final report from the State Superintendent of Education regarding the scandal around Ballou High School giving diplomas to high school seniors who did not meet graduation requirements is out and the findings are devastating:

“. . . of the 2,758 SY16-17 DCPS graduates, 937 (34.0%) students graduated with
the assistance of policy violations.”

In fact, the only DCPS schools not tied up in this mess are the selective high schools School Without Walls and Benjamin Banneker.

How was this injustice accomplished? Here you go:

“Most DCPS schools violated credit recovery program requirements, by:

1) Offering credit recovery courses to students who had not yet failed a
regular instruction course (i.e. credit recover offered concurrently or in
place of regular instruction).

2) Awarding credit for courses which do not meet 120 seat hour requirement
under the Carnegie Unit definition in 5-A DCMR § 2299.1 (“seat hour”).

3) Failing to enforce attendance requirements in credit recovery courses

4) Creating school-developed credit recovery programs that do not comply
with the Evening Credit Recovery Operations Manual (“ECR Manual”)

At most DCPS high schools, students have been allowed to pass courses despite
excessive unexcused absences, at times missing the majority of the course. Grade
reductions and failures due to absences are rarely enforced by DCPS high school
teachers or administrators.

A lack of support and oversight from DCPS Central Office contributed significantly
to policy violations system-wide related to grading, credit recovery, excessive
absences, and graduation of ineligible students. Specifically, training,
communication, tools, and monitoring were inadequate.

DCPS teachers and school leaders are subject to a variety of institutional and
administrative pressures which have contributed to a culture in which passing and
graduating students is expected, sometimes in contradiction to standards of
academic rigor and integrity. Pressures contributing to this culture included:

1) Empathy for the extreme needs of the DCPS student population (high
poverty, English language learners, and special education)

2) Aggressive graduation and promotion goals

3) Increasingly burdensome documentation required to fail students.”

The Washington Post’s Perry Stein revealed some of the greatest abuses:

“At Anacostia High School in Southeast Washington, nearly 70 percent of the 106 graduates last year received their diplomas despite violating some aspect of city policy — the worst violation rate among comprehensive schools in the city. At Ballou, the school whose mispractices spurred the investigation, 63 percent of graduates missed more classes than typically allowed, or inappropriately completed credit recovery, according to the report.

One of the most damning findings came from Dunbar High School in Northwest Washington. Teacher-centered attendance records at the school were modified from absent to present more than 4,000 times for the senior class, which numbered fewer than 200.”

According to Ms. Perry, the principal of Dunbar, Abdullah Zaki, who was named DCPS principal of the year in 2013, was removed from his job, based upon this study.  He becomes the fourth employee of the traditional public schools to lose their positions in the wake of the controversy.

The Post reporter’s article quotes DCPS Chancellor Antwan Wilson as finally showing the slightest bit of emotion over this mess.  ‘Are you telling me that they didn’t know they were supposed to go to school?’ They know that they are supposed to go to school. You can have an attendance issue and not miss 30 periods of a class.’”

He needs to be the fifth person to go.  We need to start over.  D.C.’s charter schools did not cheat while teaching the same population of students.  Perhaps they should be given the chance to turn this situation around.


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