The D.C. State Board of Education may call for an independent investigation of public and charter schools amid allegations that Ballou High School in Southeast Washington improperly graduated students who were chronically absent and didn’t grasp basic reading skills.
The board is expected to vote on the matter Wednesday at its monthly meeting.
The Office of the State Superintendent of Education and D.C. Public Schools are already investigating citywide graduation policies to determine whether schools are following protocols.
The State Board of Education is an elected nine-member panel that sets broad policies governing graduation requirements, academic standards and teacher qualifications.
If approved Wednesday, the measure would not automatically lead to a new investigation, but would serve as a recommendation to the mayor or the D.C. Council to open another inquiry.
Joe Weedon, Ward 6 representative on the State Board of Education, said the resolution would call for an agency unrelated to schools, such as the D.C. auditor or inspector general, to investigate graduation practices. He said the inquiry would look at all D.C. public and charter schools, not just Ballou.
“We’re a little uneasy that [the Office of the State Superintendent of Education], the chancellor and the D.C. Public Charter School Board are all under — or tangentially related to — the mayor, and they all have an interest in graduation rates rising,” Weedon said. “So we need to make sure it’s an impartial investigation. We need to really understand what’s going on.”
D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson acknowledged Friday in front of the D.C. Council that the school system graduates a high number of chronically absent students, a practice that “doesn’t align” with city policy. But he said he thinks that students who graduate have rightfully passed their courses and earned their diplomas.
“I believe that our students earned their diplomas by reaching a level of mastery deemed appropriate by our teachers,” Wilson testified.
The State Board of Education meeting is open to the public and is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Old Council Chambers, 441 Fourth Street NW.