A Third of D.C. Graduates Didn’t Meet Requirements, Audit Finds

More than 30 percent of D.C. students who graduated last year failed to meet graduation policies in place in the city, according to a study released Monday.

An audit commissioned by the school system found that 937 out of 2,758 graduates from D.C. public high schools last year had excessive absences from school or had help from other system policy violations like taking regular classes alongside the recovery course for the same class, reversed by District policy for students who have failed the course.

Investigators found that a lack of support from the District’s public school central office contributed to many of the systemwide policy violations due to inadequate training, communication and system monitoring.

“DCPS did not provide sufficient training and support to our schools with the greatest challenges on student attendance,” said DCPS Chancellor Antwan Wilson in a statement. “In addition, the District did not provide adequate oversight on grading and credit recovery policies and procedures. The District must provide better direction to schools and improved support to all of our schools. I will ensure this is done.

Policy violations were found at all but two of the city’s 19 public high schools — School Without Walls and Benjamin Banneker. The school found to have the largest number of graduation violations was Luke C. Moore Alternative High School in Northeast, with 87 percent.

The study also found that more than 4,000 changes were made to the attendance records of 118 graduates at Dunbar.

Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered the report in December following an NPR and WAMU investigative story looking into how students at Ballou were able to graduate last year despite missing significant amounts of school.

Several school officials have been removed following the report.

Ballou Principal Yetunde Reeves was removed from her post and reassigned to an unspecified position last month.

Last week, the chief of secondary schools, Jane Spence was removed from her post. As the person all middle and high school principals in the city report to, she is the highest-ranking official to be placed on administrative leave following the NPR/WAMU report.

On Monday, officials announced that the Dunbar principal Abdullah Zaki was also placed on administrative leave.

Going forward, Wilson said there are steps the city will take to move forward including reviewing the transcripts of each 2018 prospective graduate, unveiling new policies on grading recovery and training for school faculty on those policies and define milestones expected of high school graduates and create an ombudsman-like function to follow up on complaints.

Council member David Grosso (I-At Large), chair of the education committee, said he will review the investigation’s findings to seek “long-term solutions that address the systemic issues” facing high school neighborhood schools.

A public roundtable that began in December will continue on Feb. 8 to public review the report.

“I continue to encourage the public to build on the testimony we received over the course of the last month by submitting testimony to the Committee on Education,” Grosso said. “Testimony will be compiled as part of a formal Committee Report and anonymity or redaction will be granted upon request.”

Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) said city officials will need to work hard restore residents’ faith in the schools system.

“We need to bring the parents back into schools and let them be a part of the solutions,” he said.

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Tatyana Hopkins – Washington Informer Contributing Writer

Tatyana Hopkins has always wanted to make the world a better place. Growing up she knew she wanted to be a journalist. To her there were too many issues in the world to pick a career that would force her to just tackle one. The recent Howard University graduate is thankful to have a job and enjoys the thrill she gets from chasing the story, meeting new people and adding new bits of obscure information to her knowledge base. Dubbed with the nickname “Fun Fact” by her friends, Tatyana seems to be full of seemingly “random and useless” facts. Meanwhile, the rising rents in D.C. have driven her to wonder about the length of the adverse possession statute of limitations (15 years?). Despite disliking public speaking, she remembers being scolded for talking in class or for holding up strangers in drawn-out conversations. Her need to understand the world and its various inhabitants frequently lands her in conversations on topics often deemed taboo: politics, religion and money. Tatyana avoided sports in high school she because the thought of a crowd watching her play freaked her out, but found herself studying Arabic, traveling to Egypt and eating a pigeon. She uses social media to scope out meaningful and interesting stories and has been calling attention to fake news on the Internet for years.

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