Sure. Go Ahead And Lie. It’s Only Lives We Are Talking About.

This story boggles the mind.

It starts back last year when Ballou High in a poor area of Southeast Washington DC had every member of their senior class graduate and apply for college.

Every one of the 190 seniors at Ballou High applied to college this year, a first for the long-struggling public school in a poor neighborhood of Southeast Washington.


Ballou ranks among the city’s lowest-performing high schools on core measures. Its graduation rate last school year, 57 percent, was second-lowest among regular schools in the D.C. Public Schools system, behind Anacostia High’s rate of 42 percent. (That comparison doesn’t include alternative schools.) Last school year, 3 percent of Ballou students tested met reading standards on citywide standardized exams. Almost none met math standards.

Despite these challenges, administrators said it was the Class of 2017 that decided all seniors would apply to college. The students themselves set the ambitious goal last spring. Administrators say they never doubted the students would meet it.

It really is an unprecedented success story and one that students, parents, teachers and administrators at the school should rightfully be proud of.

If only it were true.

It’s not.

An investigation by WAMU and NPR has found that Ballou High School’s administration graduated dozens of students despite high rates of unexcused absences. We reviewed hundreds of pages of Ballou’s attendance records, class rosters and emails after a district employee shared the private documents. 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.

According to district policy, if a student misses a class 30 times, he should fail that course. Research shows that missing 10 percent of school, about two days per month, can negatively affect test scores, reduce academic growth and increase the chances a student will drop out.


An internal email obtained by WAMU and NPR from April shows two months before graduation, only 57 students were on track to graduate, with dozens of students missing graduation or community service requirements or failing classes needed to graduate. In June, 164 students received diplomas.

“It was smoke and mirrors. That is what it was,” says [history teacher at Ballou High School Brian] Butcher.

Pressure to pass students

WAMU and NPR talked to nearly a dozen current and recent Ballou teachers — as well as four recent graduates — who tell 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,” says one current Ballou teacher, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her job.

“To not prepare them is not ethical,” says another current Ballou teacher who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“They’re not prepared to succeed,” says Morgan Williams, who taught health and physical education at Ballou last year. Williams says the lack of expectations set up students for future failure: “If I knew I could skip the whole semester and still pass, why would I try?”


During the last term of senior year, some seniors who weren’t on track to graduate were placed in an accelerated version of the classes they were failing. Those classes, known as credit recovery, were held after school for a few weeks. School district policy says students should only take credit recovery once they receive a final failing grade for a course. At Ballou, though, students who were on track to fail were placed in these classes before they should have been allowed. On paper, these students were taking the same class twice. Sometimes, with two different teachers. Teachers say this was done to graduate kids.


If teachers pushed back against these practices, they say, administration retaliated against them by giving them poor teacher evaluations. Last year, the district put school administrators entirely in control of teacher evaluations, including classroom observations, instead of including a third party. Many teachers we spoke to say they believe this gives too much power to administrators. A low evaluation rating two years in a row is grounds for dismissal. Just one bad rating can make it tough to find another job. Teachers we spoke with say if they questioned administration, they were painted as “haters” who don’t care about students.

The entire article at NPR is well worth reading. It shows a pattern of neglect and abuse of the educational process in order to give the public perception of success when in fact students were failing.

The DC government is going to investigate the claims that the school passed and graduated students that did not meet graduation criteria and that teachers were pressured.

It is hard for us to believe that the investigation will result in anything given this:

The school also showed steady improvement on its Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) scores, a standardized test.

Test scores from 2016 showed that 8 percent of students met or approached meeting standards in math and that 9  percent met or approached standards in English.

In 2017, those numbers increased to 10 percent in math and 22 percent in English.

Still, those results fell well below the average scores for the District, with 51 percent of students meeting or approaching meeting standards in math and 53 percent in English.

“I personally believe Principal Reeves should be renewed based on my visits with the school,” [D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan] Wilson said. He added that he has no “evidence that it’s true” that students graduated unable to read or write.

We aren’t sure how only 1 in 5 students passing a competency test in English and English comprehension skills shows that students can all read. We don’t understand that at all.

We aren’t sure how the head of an administration at the school that pressured teachers to lie and violate policies should be rewarded and retained in their job. But this is not about performance of the students.

It never was.

This whole mess is about the perception the school, the administration and the School District wanted to perpetuate. Now that they have been caught, the issue will ba as to bow to cover the problem up, rather than address the problems, and hold those who caused this accountable.

This school pumped out kids who are not prepared in basic skills to meet life. They let kids have a false sense of accomplishment while touting the schools false and illusionary success.

Anyone, and we mean anyone, found tied to or a part of this scandal and harm to students and their families should be fired. Get ’em out. Tell them to go do something else because they certainly are not morally or ethically qualified to be around students.

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