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Faking the Grade: Attendance down for some DC schools

Faking the Grade: Attendance down for some DC schools (ABC7)

Graduation season is nearly here, but public charter school leaders say the number of students actually showing up to class is getting worse.

“Our in seat attendance is slightly below what they were last year,” Public Charter School Board Senior Manager Rashida Young told the DC Council Thursday morning.

Interim DC Public Schools Chancellor Amanda Alexander reported slight improvement.

“Chronic absenteeism specifically last year was at 30 percent this time year to date," she said. "As I said, we're now at 27 percent. That means we're actually down.”

Alexander attributed improvement to the “Show Up, Stand Up” and “Every Day Counts” campaigns. Alexander also reported 900,000 instructional days were lost to absences last year district-wide.

The ABC7 I-Team exposed multiple high schools graduating students who missed a majority of the school year.

A later district-wide audit determined one third of all DCPS high school students graduated in 2016 despite missing too many school days.

Ward 8 Public School Board member Markus Batchelor is concerned attendance enforcement may go too far.

“I think there's been huge unintended consequences," he said. "I think there are many families who were hit – students who were hit midway through this year, almost end of the year – senior year, finding out because of the way the system has shifted enforcement, that they're not going to be able to graduate."

DC Councilmembers expressed two ideas to reduce the impact of increased attendance enforcement.

Robert White proposed only counting spring semester absences. Mary Cheh wants a deeper look at whether the 80 - 20 policy, counting a student absent for missing one class, should be changed.

The final day of DCPS instruction this year is Friday, June 15.

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