D.C. Public Schools Graduation Rate on Track to Decline This Year

Perry Stein, Washington Post, March 1, 2018

Fewer high school seniors in the District are expected to receive a diploma in June than the year before, a sharp reversal for a school system that had celebrated a 20-point increase in its graduate rate since 2011.

Data released Thursday by D.C. Public Schools show that 42 percent of seniors attending traditional public schools are on track to graduate, while 19 percent are considered “moderately off-track,” meaning they could still earn enough credits to earn a diploma.

The likely drop in the graduation rate is the latest fallout from an investigation that cast doubt on the validity of diplomas awarded last year. The graduation rate in 2017 was 73 percent, but the probe revealed that one in three graduates received their diplomas in violation of city policy. Those students had walked across the graduation stage despite missing too many classes or improperly taking makeup classes.

Even if all of the students regarded as “moderately off-track” receive diplomas, the graduation rate this year would stand at about 61 percent — 12 percentage points below last year.

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After the investigation into the 2017 graduation rate, the school system promised to stringently enforce long-ignored attendance policies, which state that students should fail a class if they are absent more than 30 times in a school year.

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At Anacostia High, the comprehensive high school with the smallest percentage of students on track to graduate, only 19 percent of seniors have passed or are passing the classes required to receive their diplomas. Twenty-five percent are considered “moderately off-track,” meaning they are failing one or two courses but can still earn credits through summer school or credit recovery programs.

At Ballou High — the school at the epicenter of the district’s graduation scandal — 27 percent of seniors are on track to graduate.

Wilson, the city’s highest-performing comprehensive high school, has 56 percent of students on track to receive their diplomas.

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The school system also released data Thursday showing the status of students’ attendance records about three months before graduation.

At Ballou, 14 percent of seniors have already accrued 30 absences in a class, which automatically earns them a failing grade — the highest rate of any comprehensive high school. At Anacostia, that figure is 13 percent.

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