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As DC schools work to regain trust, graduation rates could plunge

Maryland state law requires anyone over the age of 14 charged with first-degree rape to be charged as an adult, but juvenile defendants are entitled to what are called waiver hearings before a Circuit Court judge to kick the case back to juvenile court. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON — As D.C. Public Schools work to recover from a scandal involving grade and attendance inflation, the school system projects a dramatic drop in the number of seniors who will graduate in June.

Halfway through the school year, DCPS estimates that 42 percent of students in traditional high schools are on track to graduate, compared with the 2017 graduation rate of 73 percent.

According to the school system, another 19 percent are “moderately off track,” which means they are failing one or two courses but could earn enough credits to graduate, perhaps with summer school.

On Thursday, the interim chancellor, Dr. Amanda Alexander, made her first appearance before the D.C. Council since Antwan Wilson was forced to resign, amid controversy involving his daughter’s transfer to a high school where hundreds of families were on a waiting list.

“We can all agree that the past few months have been challenging ones for DCPS,” Alexander told council members. “A leadership transition is never easy — much less so when it comes from a loss of trust.”

Alexander listed her top priorities as she attempts to help regain the progress that the school system and elected leaders had heralded.

“We need to improve and consistently implement grading and graduation policies,” she said. “We need to dramatically increase student attendance across the District, especially at the secondary level. And we need to earn back the trust of our students and their families.”

DCPS is conducting a transcript review for all students, Alexander said, and will hold individual follow-up meetings with families to ensure that students who are on track will graduate — as well as students not currently on track — will receive appropriate supports.

“DCPS is committed to ensuring that every 2018 graduate can feel confident in the diploma they receive,” she said.

Alexander said she acknowledges and respects “the anger, confusion, and disappointment” she’s heard from some DCPS stakeholders regarding misleading information about the scope of the problem.

“I am already aware that we must do more to proactively and transparently share information about our challenges, successes and plans,” she said.


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