Report: Chronic Absenteeism Isn’t A Problem At D.C. Charter High Schools

But OSSE investigation finds too many DCPS schools graduating students who don’t come to school

On Tuesday, the District of Columbia’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education issued a report revealing that far too many high schools in our nation’s capital are handing out diplomas to students who haven’t met the attendance requirements for graduation.

OSSE launched an investigation into the matter after NPR’s All Things Considered aired a story which claimed that administrators at Ballou High School pressured teachers to change failing grades and overlook excessive absences in order to allow students to graduate.

This week’s report not only confirms the accusations leveled against Ballou, but it shows that many DCPS high schools have been allowing chronically absent students to graduate in violation of district policy.

According to data compiled by OSSE, nearly half of the students (46.7 percent) who graduated from traditional high schools in DCPS last year missed more than 30 days of school. Moreover, the number of chronically absent students graduating from DCPS traditional high schools has been rising over the past three years.

Nearly half of the students who graduated from DCPS traditional high schools last year missed at least 30 days of school.

However, there is one bright spot among the report’s troubling findings: charter schools. OSSE’s investigation found that D.C. charter high schools have “few students within the highest bands of absenteeism” and “much more stable patterns of attendance in the past three years than high schools in DCPS.” In fact, only 8% of students who graduated from charter high schools last year missed more than 30 days of school.

Only 8% of students who graduated from charter high schools last year missed more than 30 days of school.

Although critics frequently claim that charters aren’t held to the same standards as traditional public schools, the opposite appears to be true in Washington D.C. OSSE’s report makes clear that several of the city’s traditional high schools have chosen to ignore the district’s graduation requirements, while charters only hand out diplomas to students who earn them.

You can read more about the OSSE’s report from the Washington Post here or read the report in full below.


Written by Peter Cook

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.

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