Throughout high school, Tarrell Talbert had to mine an array of sources to know which colleges he should apply to and what requirements he needed to meet before he could earn his high school diploma.
But District students who follow the H.D. Woodson High School senior won’t have to work quite so hard to get that information. The school system is unveiling a guide that will let high school students in its traditional public schools track the courses they have passed and the credits they need if they want to walk across the graduation stage on time. Attendance records, grade-point averages and community services hours are also included.
“They have it right here in one place,” said Talbert, who is bound in the fall for North Carolina A&T State University.
The guide is the latest effort by D.C. officials to ensure high school students have met city requirements before they are handed their diplomas.
The “Guide to Graduation, College, and Career” was mailed to the physical and virtual mailboxes of about 8,400 freshmen, sophomores and juniors last week — more than a year after a city-commissioned report found that 1 in 3 graduates in 2017 received their diplomas despite missing too many classes or improperly taking makeup classes.
“We are being intentional and bold about how we support our high school students,” Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said last week when announcing the effort. “We want every student to have at their fingertips where they are, how they are doing, and where they still need to go.”
Bowser and D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee highlighted the design of the guide, which uses graphics to show how many credits in each subject students have completed. If a student is missing credits, that is displayed in red.
The guide, which the city commissioned an outside firm to create, uses information from surveys that students complete each year to recommend college and career paths. Students receive recommendations about public and private colleges in nearby states. The document labels each college as a “reach,” “match” or “likely,” based on students’ grades and scores on the PSAT, a precursor to the SAT college entrance exam.
It also shows students potential career tracks in their interested fields, and lists which jobs — and salaries — they can have depending on their degrees or professional certificates.
“This guide provides students with a plethora of information and that information is customized to them,” Ferebee said. “We want to make sure that all of our students, as they are approaching graduation, have a solid plan.”
Some students got a sneak peek of their progress reports in recent weeks so they could teach their classmates how to use the new guide. Parents, teachers, counselors and students have access to the online version. The school system is calling parents to inform them they can use the guide to track their child’s path to graduation. Students’ guides will be updated twice during the school year.
After seeing their packets, H.D. Woodson freshmen Novaun Lee and Natalia Givens said they realized they were not aware of all the graduation requirements.
“To be honest, I didn’t realize health was a requirement,” Lee said. “But now I know.”
Givens said she was surprised her attendance rate was not higher and hopes to improve it. She said she wanted to research the recommended colleges — especially reach schools, those that might require extra dedication to get into — which are denoted on the guide with a single graduation cap. Campuses that are likely matches get three graduation caps.
“When I get home, I’m going to look at three hats, but also the one-hat schools because I know I can do better,” Givens said.
The students said they were excited to share the guides with younger siblings, so they could see in a single location all they need to do to earn high school diplomas.
“I’m going to show my little sister so she can know what high school is like and I can prep her,” Givens said.
Chicago Public Schools released a similar college and career guide this year. Two Southern California systems — in Long Beach and Orange County — have similar career and college-focused progress reports for high school students.
Daniel West, the college and career coordinator at the District’s Eastern High, said the guide helps students think about their futures and the steps needed to achieve their goals before graduation day.
“For most of our students, it doesn’t really click until the end of senior year,” he said. “They are like, ‘Oh, I need to go somewhere after graduation.’ ”
Eastern sophomore Aniya Cox wants to be a dermatologist. But before she can graduate high school, the guide showed she is behind on earning community service hours required to graduate.
She wants to attend a top-tier college, but the guide suggests Howard and Georgetown universities might be hard for her to get into.
“I know I have to do more to get there,” she said.