An investigation by WAMU and NPR has found that Ballou High School’s administration graduated dozens of students despite high rates of unexcused absences. WAMU and NPR reviewed hundreds of pages of Ballou’s attendance records, class rosters and emails after a DCPS employee shared the private documents. The documents showed that half of the graduates missed more than three months of school last year, unexcused. One in five students was absent more than present — missing more than 90 days of school.
“I’ve never seen kids in the 12th grade that couldn’t read and write,” said (Brian) Butcher, (a history teacher) who has more than two decades of teaching experience in low-performing schools from New York City to Florida. But he saw students like that at Ballou — and it wasn’t just one or two.
The piece continues:
A pressure to pass studentsWAMU and NPR talked to nearly a dozen current and recent Ballou teachers as well as four recent graduates who told the same story: teachers felt pressure from administration to pass chronically absent students, and students knew the school administration would do as much as possible to get them to graduation.
“It’s oppressive to the kids because you’re giving them a false sense of success,” said a current Ballou teacher who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her job.
Another current Ballou teacher, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “To not prepare them is not ethical.”
Morgan Williams, who taught health and physical education at Ballou last year, says the lack of expectations sets students up for future failure.
“If I knew I could skip the whole semester and still pass, why would I try?” Williams said. “They’re not prepared to succeed.”
We are obviously not alone here in NYC high schools in being told to pass everyone. This is really sad. The real needed school reform is to bring back some integrity to many schools even if it means a lower graduation rate. So what if every student is accepted to college if they can't read. We are truly setting them up for failure.
Thanks to my friend Marc Epstein for originally sending me the story.