The Washington Post’s Perry Stein revealed yesterday that a couple of D.C. Council members, David Grosso, the chairman of the education committee, and Robert White, Jr., plan to introduce emergency legislation next week that would allow students who had excessive absences from school to receive a high school diploma anyway. According to Ms. Stein:
“The legislation comes amid stricter enforcement of long-ignored attendance policies, which received scrutiny this year after a city-commissioned report found that 1 in 3 high school graduates in 2017 received their diplomas despite accruing too many absences or improperly enrolling in makeup classes. Some students and teachers have argued it was unfair to change the enforcement of attendance policies midyear.”
Remember that this emergency legislation is coming in the wake of a DCPS graduation scandal that demonstrated for all to see that the 2017 four-year 73.2 rate of students receiving high school diplomas was a sham. Administrators and teachers let students pass who were chronically truant from class and who also should have failed their classes academically. It has been calculated that the actual graduation rate would have been in the 40 percent range if the established rules were followed. The 2018 traditional school graduation rate has been estimated to be 46 percent.
Now Mr. Grosso and Mr. White want to alter this year’s statistic. Their preference is to wait until the next school year to enforce attendance requirements that should have been adhered to all along.
This whole episode brings me right back to the article last week by the Washington City Paper’s Rachel Cohen reporting on her investigative look at the work of TenSquare. One way to view her assertions is that she is arguing that it was perfectly alright for Septima Clark PCS and IDEA PCS to post low academic results for their students. After all, if the DC Public Charter School Board had not held these schools to strict academic standards, there would have been no need for these institutions when they got in trouble to contract with TenSquare in the first place. She went out of her way to defend those who are not fulfilling the professional responsibilities they were being paid to do, like the teachers and administrators at Cesar Chavez PCS and William E. Doar, Jr. PCS, and cast Josh Kern and his team as evil for making the changes necessary to build the next generation of our city’s leaders. It is all right out of an Ayn Rand novel where an ill society has reversed the heroes and the villains.
Coming to the rescue in defiance of those who dwell in the cesspool of low expectations is my friend Ahnna Smith, the interim D.C. Deputy Mayor for Education. She is having none of the excuses culture. In an email she wrote, according to the Post, “that the legislation fails to prepare students for college and careers.”
She stated “The proposed legislation would inexcusably exempt absences, signaling to students that mastery of content and preparation for the future are not what are most important. The legislation also ignores the hard work teachers, administrators, students, and families have put in over the last six months, to create individualized graduation plans that will ensure our students receive the preparation they need for the future.”
Good for her. Ms. Perry states that her opposition to the law will most likely kill it. I know that Ms Smith does not want the Deputy Mayor of Education job permanently but perhaps we can persuade her to accept it.
Meanwhile, Mr. Grosso admits that the bill he is co-sponsoring would not return the DCPS graduation rate back to last year’s phony number. Over 1,000 pupils will not graduate due to poor academic performance. But give him some time and perhaps he will figure out a solution to this obstacle as well.