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Nearly half of DC teachers surveyed say they felt pressured by school to change grades

A new survey of D.C. teachers states that issues like the changing of grades and attendance records that led to an FBI investigation at Ballou High School is a problem at a number of local schools. (Photo, ABC7)

A new survey of hundreds of D.C. teachers says there are "pervasive problems" with school administrators pressuring teachers to change grades and attendance records.

The Washington Teachers Union and EmpowerED conducted the survey from November to December of 2017 and says that 616 teachers answered the study. The full results were released on Thursday.

“It’s no wonder students get to 12th grade and cannot read, they know they are going to pass no matter what effort they put forth from elementary through high school," one teacher told the survey.

The study claims that 46.5 percent of teachers said they felt pressured to change a student's grade or pass them when they did not meet the requirements. 22.2 percent of teachers say they had grades and attendance records changed by others at the school.

55.1 percent of the teachers said the graduation rates at their schools do not accurately represent their students' performance.

“I saw at least three students graduate in June 2017 and they didn’t even show up for 20 days and didn’t take my final exam,” another teacher said.

“Teachers have made it very clear that the system was too fixated on data and test scores than on helping teachers and students improve,” said WTU President Elizabeth Davis.

The survey comes in the wake of alleged grade fixing and the changing of attendance records at Ballou High School, which the FBI is now investigating.

“After talking to one of our field representatives, I was informed by the one that represents Ballou HS that a member of that school, a teacher, had been contacted by the Office of the Inspector General for an interview. We encourage teachers at any school, Ballou, or any school in the system that if they're contacted by an investigator from any agency than they can request the representation of a teachers union representative,” added Davis.

On Wednesday, D.C. Public Schools said it put Secondary Schools Chief Dr. Jane Spence on administrative leave.

“The findings that we see today I think are DCPS' worst-kept secret,” said Ward 8 State Board of Education member Markus Batchelor. “It think it's very important that we take this information as a flashlight and not as a hammer. For 10 years under mayoral control spent too much time using data as a hammer, using data as a way to punish.”

The teachers union and EmpowerED say the survey results show that "systemic solutions" are needed to fix these "systemic problems."

On Thursday evening, DCPS officials released the following statement in response to the survey:

"At DCPS, we are committed to putting our students first, focusing on equity and excellence and always looking for ways to improve. The Chancellor personally meets with teachers at weekly faculty meetings, monthly teacher cabinet meetings, and school visits. DCPS teachers also engage leaders on everything from IMPACT to professional development. This is all with the goal of implementing policies and procedures that help ensure students succeed, creating an environment where kids want to learn, and holding everyone accountable to make sure the entire system works."

Read the full results of the survey below.

All answers to the survey were anonymous but the union says the teachers did tell them where they worked.

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For more on Ballou High School and our entire Faking the Grade investigation, click here.

This story has been updated

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