City Desk

Are D.C. Public Schools a Lost Cause?

It's high school graduation season here in the nation's capital which means two things: ridiculous crowds outside Constitution Hall all day, every day; and the publication of Education Week's graduation issue.  It's the latter that is causing greater concern because contained in the June 11 edition are the results of the magazine's ten-year analysis of public high school graduation rates across the country.  And unfortunately, D.C. Public Schools ranked 50th out of 51 states and territories.  According to the poll, 48.8 percent of public school students in the city graduated in 2006.  So what do we do now?

While this information is certainly cause for alarm, it does not accurately reflect the District's school system because the data specifically ignores the graduation rates of public charter schools, which, according to Friends of Choice in Urban Schools, is 24 percent higher than other public schools in D.C.  The data was also derived between 1996 and 2006, before Michelle Rhee came in to revamp the school system. Since then, graduation rates have risen but not drastically enough to signify a complete turnaround.  After all, the Obamas and other important figures in this city have rarely considered sending their children to public schools, favoring expensive private schools with plenty of resources or more stable public schools in the suburbs.

Speaking of suburbs, the discrepancy between the District's graduation rates and the graduation rates of neighboring school districts in Maryland and Virginia is truly astounding. A chart published on Education Week's Web site lists the graduation rates of the 50 largest school districts in the nation, and Montgomery County, Maryland, leads the country with a graduation rate of 80.7 percent.  Fairfax County Public Schools posts a graduation rate of 78.8 percent.  Location is by no means the only determinant in school success but access to resources and attention certainly make a difference.  D.C. is trying to keep up by developing more charter schools and closing underenrolled schools in order to save money, but something needs to be done in order to drag the city schools out of the depths.

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  • huh?

    The data was also derived between 1996 and 2006, before Michelle Rhee came in to revamp the school system. Since then, graduation rates have risen but not drastically enough to signify a complete turnaround.

    What the hell does this have to do with anything? Who cares if more people graduate if they don't know shit?

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    This is just more DC laziness, ignorance, & apathy in action - or inaction. Busing. Bus the DC kids to VA & MD. Maybe some of the DC kids will commit their crimes in VA & MD, so it's a win-win for DC.

  • Too cute

    Let the ignorant jeers begin.

    This report is flawed and badly interpreted.
    1.DC is not a state, yet it's compared to states -- the classic apples/oranges sophomoric error.
    2. Not only is DC compared to states, DCPS is compared to states. The District has 81 LEAs, not one as the report states-- DCPS and 80 charter schools. DC has invested millions into the current structure of choice. When do we start being evaluated on this structure? Why wouldn't the report include all our LEAs?
    3. The report analyzes gross data that describes only graduation, not drop-out. Not known: did they transfer to other schools? move out of DC? Drop-out?

  • WestIndianArchie

    Even the kids @ the Thomas Edison academy, a stones throw from DCPS, are a lost cause.

    There simply aren't enough band geeks, computer nerds, and math dorks in all of the US to compete with China, Korea, Japan, and India.