Ballou High School in Washington D.C. is a school with a deep poverty minority student body and has historically struggled academically, with a low graduation rate. However, in 2017 Ballou High School dramatically improved their graduation rate and every graduate was accepted to college. The school's success became a national sensation of how real education reform can improve even the worst academically struggling school. However, NPR did an expose of the 2017 graduation class and found some very disturbing issues that questioned that success.
The majority of graduating seniors in 2017 missed more than six weeks of school due to unexcused absences. Moreover, 33 students had unexcused absences of 90 days or more ot of 180 school days. Of the 164 graduating seniors in 2017, only 23 students had less than 30 unexcused absences. The Washington D.C. public schools policy is that if a student misses class more than 30 days, the student should fail the course. If the District followed it's own policy than 141 graduating seniors should have failed the courses and not graduate.
High Teacher Turnover:
Ballou High School suffered the highest teacher turnover in the City with 25% of the teachers leaving the school by the end of the 2016-17 school year, many of them in the middle of the term. Most of the teachers who left cited low morale, administrative pressure to pass undeserving students, and poor student discipline.According to an internal memo only 57 seniors were on track to graduate in April. The remaining 107 seniors were given massive amount of credit recovery and projects to meet their graduation requirements, despite the fact that many students did not qualify for credit recovery since they didn't bother to show up to their classes.
While its true that all 164 2017 graduates were accepted to college only 16 actually enrolled. The main reason was the dismally low test scores. Only 9% passed the English test and 0% passed the Math test. Even the students realized that they were unprepared for college.
The Principal of the school has been reassigned and the school district has launched an investigation but will anything change? Probably not, once the media scrutiny disappears. Ballou high school will continue to graduate unprepared students where the graduation rate is all smoke and mirrors.