Staff Editorial: Solutions for District graduation problems

Antwan Wilson became the D.C. schools chancellor in 2017. (Brian Kapur/The Current/January 2017)

Thanks to the outstanding investigative reporting of WAMU, which exposed the false graduations from Ballou High School, investigators have found that many other District high schools have given undeserving students diplomas.

The main reason stated for the scandal is that school leaders have been under intense pressure to increase the share of students who receive diplomas whether or not they have earned them. Teachers can be rewarded if a continually higher share of their students graduate, and may suffer seriously if they do not.

Thus, it is not surprising that many District high schools give students diplomas who do not deserve them.

A major study is needed to determine what can be done to solve the problem.

One answer might well be that diploma recipients must pass tests to ensure they have a reasonable knowledge of the English language, mathematics, social studies and other scientific subjects. They could even be given two or three chances to pass the tests.

Another answer might be to have two classes of diplomas, one for students who have an appropriate level of academic achievement and another for students who do reasonably well in nonacademic subject areas that can lead to jobs.

We urge Mayor Muriel Bowser and the City Council to organize a major study by independent consultants to analyze the issue and recommend solutions.