Regarding the Dec. 5 Metro article "Ballou principal removed amid probe":

Ballou High School is a building. Students' failing grades and unacceptable absences are not a localized problem, uniquely the responsibility of Ballou teachers. The problem is systemic, found at all but the most selective high schools.

This fall, an NPR-Education Week series on the all-male Ron Brown College Preparatory High School reported teachers' shock when told that students can fail three quarters out of four but get a C in one and a passing grade. In a May Washington City Paper report, a D.C. Public Schools algebra teacher described the pressure to "pass kids who haven't learned." The systemic nature is confirmed by DCPS oversight reports to the D.C. Council. At several schools, the rates topped Ballou's.

There is no mystery to high school students' deficient achievement: DCPS doesn't use standardized tests to diagnose and remediate students' learning needs; they're used to hold school faculties collectively accountable, while unremediated students are socially promoted. Fifty percent of principals' IMPACT evaluation consists of "voluntarily" set performance goals, including promotion and graduation rates at the high school level. Principals face an unethical choice: honor the grades that students earned or keep their jobs. It's time to end troubled DCPS management policies that impede teaching and learning and teach the wrong lesson on integrity.

Erich Martel, Washington

The writer is a retired D.C. Public Schools teacher.