FBI, U.S. Education Department investigating D.C. Public Schools graduation scandal

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D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) holds a news conference with Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson to review the findings of an independent audit of the city’s graduation rates. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Education Department Office of the Inspector General are investigating the District of Columbia public schools, The Washington Post reports.

Citing sources in D.C. government, the newspaper reports that the probe is focused on high school graduation practices in the district, which have come under scrutiny amid reports and investigations that have drawn national attention to schools in the nation’s capital.

A report released earlier this week by the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent found that roughly one in three students who graduated from the city’s high schools in 2017 were awarded those diplomas in error because they missed too many classes or improperly took makeup classes.

The city commissioned the study in the wake of an investigation by Washington public radio station WAMU, showing that Ballou High School, a long-troubled school in the district, awarded diplomas to many students last year despite the fact that they were chronically absent from class.

Amid the ongoing probe, the district’s leadership has reassigned Ballou High’s principal. A Ballou assistant principal and D.C.’s chief of secondary schools Jane Spence (Former PGCPS Senior official) was placed on administrative leave following graduation scandal in DC Schools.

The report from the Office of the State Superintendent also found that teachers felt pressure from school administrators to find ways to graduate students, even those who did not come close to meeting the requirements to earn a diploma.

While the district has vowed to step up monitoring of student graduation requirements in, it does remain unclear whether there was a deliberate effort by high-ranking school leaders to manipulate the district’s graduation numbers.

PGCPS TIES AND DC SCHOOLSpgcps_logo

Before the WAMU story shed light on the practices at Ballou, the district touted its record-high graduation rate as proof that education reforms in the system were yielding benefits. It’s just the latest in a series of revelations that have called district practices into questions. However, there appeared to have been a coordination with Prince George’s county Public Schools (PGCPS) fake graduation rates and DC Schools experiencing the same. Officials in both districts starting with Jane Spence and Monica Goldson of PGCPS are close friends with many others connected to them with a history of cover-ups in PGCPS.

In the past year, both PGCPS and DC Schools Districts have also come under fire for misrepresenting student suspension rates. DC Schools faced questions about the former schools’ chancellor skirting the school lottery system to help well-connected parents land their children spots in coveted city schools. PGCPS is facing similar allegations with the selection process of the Academy of Health Sciences at Prince George’s Community College in which well connected students are given the first chances.

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