An audit of District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) revealed that school officials graduated 34 percent of high school students in 2017 who failed to meet graduation requirements, NBC News Washington reported. A driving force behind the scandal is the pressure on administrators to reach graduation goals at any cost. That pressure pushes school administrators nationwide to distribute unmerited diplomas.
“This is indeed tough news to deliver but very necessary in order that we right the ship, make sure our community has all the information that we have and implement the changes necessary,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Monday at a news conference, pledging to fix the problem.
An investigation by news outlets WAMU and NPR into graduation rates at Ballou High School prompted the Office of the State Superintendent for Education to conduct a broad review of the district’s high schools. OSSE discovered policy violations in the records of 937 of the 2,758 students who graduated. The probe revealed a pattern of passing and graduating failing students, altering attendance records after teachers marked students absent, and a lack of support from DCPS central office.
The Washington Teachers Union and the teacher group EmpowerEd surveyed 616 DCPS teachers and found that the teachers feel pressure from administrators to pass failing students even if that requires violating grading and attendance policies. Public schools in the nation’s capital are far from alone.
New York City public school teachers are also under pressure from their administrators to pass a quota of students even if some of them are failing. In Denver, administrators were accused of changing Fs to Ds for students of a physics teacher who said his principal wanted a higher percentage of passing grades. This also happens at public schools in affluent communities where most students are high performers. A former English teacher recalled that her school in Fairfax County, Virginia had a culture of inflating grades, which included giving Ds to failing students.
Unlike kids from affluent White families, students in the District of Columbia who received unmerited diplomas will continue to suffer the consequences of a poor education.