Have they tried reframing it as being culturally enthusiastic?DC Public Schools HS teacher here (although I’m not returning next year, as is the case with many of my colleagues). As noted, one of the biggest factors in the graduation rates is the unexcused absences–if you look at the results of our external audit and investigation here, you see that for many schools, a significant number of our seniors “Passed Despite Excessive Absences in Regular Instruction Courses Required for Graduation”–over 40% of 2017 graduates at my high school, for example.
So the attendance policy is being strictly enforced now, and you can see how from that alone, a ~30% drop in expected graduates is possible. Some more details about strictly enforcing the attendance policy though:
1: DCPS has what’s called the ’80 20′ rule: A student that is absent for at least 20% of their classes is considered absent for the whole day.
2: Most schools have 5 periods, so an absence in one class would be considered an absence for the whole day.
3: If you have 10 or more unexcused absences in a class, you automatically get an F for the term.
4: If you are over 15 minutes late for a class, that is considered an unexcused absence.
5: A majority of these absences are in first period.
6: A majority of students in my school and many others live in single parent households.
7: These students are typically responsible for making sure their younger siblings get to school, if they have any.
8: Elementary and middle schools in my neighborhood start at the exact same time as high school.
9: Their doors do not open until 5 to 10 minutes before the starting bell, presumably for safety reasons.
10: Refer to point 4.
There’s many other problems at DCPS to be sure, but this set of circumstances alone is causing the largest increase in failing grades and graduation ineligibility at my high school, and basically every other 90+% black school in the district. You could see how this accounts for quite a bit of the difference between white and black graduation rates as well. There’s a reason why across the board, DCPS schools were not strictly enforcing this policy in previous years.
SO GLAD MY PARENTS LOVED ME AND SENT ME TO PRIVATE SCHOOLI was friends with a guy who briefly worked as a teacher at a public high school in central DC (I’m 80% sure it was Cardozo High). He had an education background thanks to spending several years working as a youth camp counselor and as an after-school program counselor, and that was sufficient to qualify him for DCPS’ abbreviated teacher training program (such a thing existed in 2009 when he did it; I’m unsure if it is still around). During the training program, I remember him speaking about his enthusiasm for the teaching skills he was learning and about his eagerness to put them to use (in retrospect, I think some of this was a nervous attempt to convince himself the job wouldn’t be bad). After a break of several months, we spoke again, and he was almost totally disillusioned with the job and was already thinking of quitting. This is what I remember him saying:
3) Student misbehavior was atrocious. For example, out of the students who showed up to class, it was common for some to walk into the classroom late, again without any explanation and often behaving disruptively. As a rule, whenever a student did that, he was obligated to sign his name on a clipboard for the teacher’s attendance records (there was no punishment for tardiness–late students merely had to write their names down). Some late students would chronically resist doing this, either ignoring him and just going to their desks or yelling curses at him. My friend described an incident where one student–who was physically bigger than he was–yelled out he was a “FAGGOT” when asked to sign the clipboard, provoking laughs from all the other students, before sitting down without signing it. After seeing he could get away with that, the student started calling my friend “FAGGOT” all the time.
4) Teachers received almost no support from the school administration. Had sane rules been followed at this high school, students would have been immediately sent to the office for formal punishment for these sorts of offenses I’ve described. However, under such a policy, the office would have been overwhelmed with misbehaving students and probably some of their enraged parents, so the administration solved the problem by forbidding teachers from sending students to the office for anything other than physical violence in the classroom. My friend had no ability to formally punish the student who liked to call him “FAGGOT” other than to use stern verbal warnings.
6) At the time my friend was teaching, DCPS was in the grips of some harebrained, faddish teaching philosophy that said students of different academic abilities shouldn’t be put in different course tracks, but rather, should be deliberately put in the same class. This of course caused immediate problems since the curriculum was too hard for the weakest students and too easy for the strongest ones. I think my friend said his training program basically told teachers to “try harder” if any problems arose from the setup.
And the last highlighted comment ties it back to kids then and now:
I assume kids back in the 60s also didn't call their teachers a faggot to their face either.If you go back to the 60s, DC had some of the best urban schools in the country by every metric they had to track things back then. What changed? Well, see, back then DC still didn’t have home rule. They were almost entirely run by the federal government. So the highest elected office the city had was the DC Board of Education.
In 1971, an ambitious young politician by the name of Marion Barry got elected to the board, and almost immediately began farming out school administration positions as political rewards for his cronies. This practice caught on, and within a matter of years, the whole enterprise basically descended into naked corruption.
I recall they showed a figure in that article that the DC public school system spends the third most money per student of any district in the country (after NY and Boston); however, the Post also found that in terms of the quantity of money that is actually spent on students, DC was roughly at the level of the most poverty-stricken districts in the poorest Southern, rural school districts.