Graduation Despite Chronic Absenteeism: A Citywide Issue

Courtesy of Ballou Senior High School via Twitter
Courtesy of Ballou Senior High School via Twitter

 

A report commissioned by the office that oversees the District’s public and public charter schools issued a report Tuesday that showed that citywide policies for attendance and grading were not followed at Ballou Senior High School.

The report, commissioned by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, confirmed a WAMU/NPR exposé that revealed that the Southeast school graduated most of its 2017 senior class despite high rates of absenteeism.

Of 177 graduating seniors at Ballou, the records for 133 of them indicated policy violations, according to D.C. State Superintendent of Education Hanseul Kang, who delivered the report’s initial findings.

Though the report focused on Ballou, it also reviewed absenteeism and graduation policies throughout the city’s school system and found that the number of students with high rates of absenteeism and the graduation of students with records of high absenteeism have increased in recent years. In fact, one of every 10 students who graduated in the city missed most of the academic year.

The report found:

– 80 percent of students passed courses and graduated despite chronic absence in regular or recovery classes;
– Three students graduated despite missing credits in required courses
– 27 percent of students earned original course credit through credit-recovery courses, which are supposed to be offered only after a student fails a course required for graduation
– 14 percent of students in the graduating class were taking credit-recovery courses while simultaneously taking the original course and 20 percent of the most recent graduating class earned more than 20 percent of their credits through credit-recovery courses (one student received 40 percent of their course credit through credit recovery.
– Most credit-recovery courses at Ballou did not meet the D.C. requirement of 120 seat hours to receive course credit. But it is unclear how DCPS evaluated whether a student met attendance requirements for credit-recovery courses.

The report found that teachers at Ballou felt pressured to pass chronically absent high school seniors and were encouraged to provide students with extra credit and makeup work regardless of how much school they missed.

Teachers were also found to have little training in the school’s newly implemented grading systems and their annual performance reviews relied partly on their success in graduating students.

DCPS said it has permanently reassigned Ballou Principal Yetunde Reeves and will allow its interim principal to finish the year. A permanent replacement is expected to be chosen in May.

Charter and selective high schools in the city had lower rates of absences. An investigation examining attendance policies at other schools is due at the end of the month.

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