Charter, Alternative, and On-Line Schools Have Lowest On-Time Graduation Rates, Study Finds

 

(This article is normally behind a paywall at Education Week.)

Charter, Alternative, Virtual Schools Account for Most Low-Grad-Rate Schools, Study Finds
By Catherine Gewertz on May 9, 2016 6:00 AM

Charter, virtual, and alternative schools account for a disproportionate share of U.S. high schools with low graduation rates, according to a study released Monday. Even though they enroll only a small slice of students, they account for more than half of the U.S. high schools that graduate 67 percent or less of their students in four years.

“Building a Grad Nation,” the seventh in an annual series of reports on U.S. graduation rates, concluded that regular district high schools make up 41 percent of those that didn’t surpass the 67-percent threshold in 2013-14. Charter, virtual, and alternative schools—a small sector, representing only 14 percent of the country’s high schools and 8 percent of its high school students—account for 52 percent of the schools that fell short of that mark. (The remaining 7 percent are vocational and special-education schools.)

The findings offer a challenge to a country that’s renewing its focus on graduation rates through the newly revised Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Known now as the Every Student Succeeds Act, the law requires states to report four-year graduation rates for schools that enroll 100 students or more, and districts to provide research-based help for schools that graduate fewer than 67 percent in four years.

With that new law in mind, the organizations that issue the “Grad Nation” reports annually—Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, the Alliance for Excellent Education and the America’s Promise Alliance—shifted their focus for this year’s report, from schools that enroll 300 or more students (about 13,400 schools) to those that enroll 100 or more (about 18,100 schools).

That change nearly tripled the scope of the study of schools with graduation rates of two-thirds or less: from 1,000 schools enrolling 924,000 students to 2,397 schools enrolling 1.23 million students. In a foreshadowing of the work that states face under ESSA, the Grad Nation researchers looked for patterns among the schools with low graduation rates. (Note: This paragraph reflects corrections made to the Grad Nation report.)

The contrast between “regular” district high schools, and alternative, virtual, and charter schools showed the starkest pattern. Here are the shares of U.S. high schools of each type, and their shares of schools with low graduation rates:

Regular high schools:

84 percent of U.S. high schools

7 percent have graduation rates of 67 percent or less

Alternative schools:

6 percent of U.S. high schools

57 percent have graduation rates of 67 percent or less

Charter schools:

8 percent of U.S. high schools

30 percent have graduation rates of 67 percent or less

Virtual schools:

1 percent of U.S. high schools

87 percent have graduation rates of 67 percent or less

The Grad Nation researchers called attention to the preponderance of low-grad-rate schools among charter, alternative, and virtual schools in part because the numbers of those schools have been rising in the last 15 years. Additionally, they enroll large shares of low-income, black, and Hispanic students.

“In many states, these various high school options have become popular pathways for students that have struggled to stay on track in traditional high schools,” the study says. “Therefore, it is critical that issues surrounding these schools be addressed.”

The report also pinpoints a bigger problem with low-graduation-rate schools in some states than in others. In Alaska, New Mexico, and Florida, 30 percent or more of the high schools have graduation rates of 67 percent or lower.

figure 10

Robert Balfanz, the-co-director of the Everyone Graduates Center, told reporters in a conference call that state variability is a key force in the numbers of low-grad-rate schools. For instance, of all the low-grad-rate schools in Hawaii, 100 percent were charter schools. In Arizona, the number was 73 percent, and in Indiana, 60 percent. Half of the low-grad-rate schools in California were charters. Kentucky, Texas and Washington topped the list of states with particularly high shares of low-grad-rate schools that were alternative schools.

But in some states, the charter sector is “helping solve the dropout crisis” by running many schools with good graduation rates, Balfanz said. He pointed to New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Oklahoma as examples.

Nina Rees, the president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, welcomed the report’s inquiry into graduation rates at different types of schools. But she took issue with its methdology, saying the charter sector’s share of low-grad-rate schools looks worse than it is because researchers didn’t adequately separate alternative schools from mainstream charters. She also pointed out that the study found that more than 4 in 10 charter schools are graduating more than 85 percent of their students.

Many celebrated last December when the nation’s high school graduation rate reached an all-time high of 82 percent for the class of 2014. But the milestone also sparked skepticism about whether states or districts were using shortcuts to boost their diploma numbers, by lowering academic expectations or changing they way they counted transfer students in each class cohort.

The Grad Nation researchers took on those questions, and concluded that there was little or no evidence that such practices were affecting state-level graduation rates. Further analysis would have to be done to make such conclusions at the district level, the report says. It did not examine schools’ increasing reliance on quick credit-recovery programs to improve graduation rates.

The Every Student Succeeds Act gives states much more autonomy than they had under the No Child Left Behind Act over the way they handle low-performing schools. With that in mind, the Grad Nation authors urged states to give graduation rates significant weight in the accountability systems, and to make sure that charter, virtual, and alternative schools, as well as traditional high schools, are monitored and provided solid help with low graduation rates.

They also urged states to report five- and six-year graduation rates, to capture a more accurate picture of diploma-earning. Many alternative schools, in particular, were created to serve students who struggled in traditional schools, and who might take longer to earn their diplomas, the report notes. Adding five-year graduation rates to the national picture would boost the rate by 3 percentage points, it says, and adding six-year rates would increase it by another point.

 

 

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Do DC Charter Schools Have the Secret for Preventing High School Dropouts?

The conventional wisdom is that urban charter schools do a much better job than public schools at getting their students to graduate from high school and go to college.

But audited figures from the District of Columbia’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education over the past ten years show that despite all the advantages and extra corporate funding of charter schools, the attrition rates from both types of schools is essentially the same, and is very high.

The graphs and tables below show that both public and charter schools in DC have a serious attrition problem, in that large proportions of the students enrolled and counted in October of their 9th grade have somehow vanished by the time that the cohort of 12th graders is officially counted in October.

This attrition rate is serious in both cases: over the past decade, about 44 percent of the high school freshmen (9th graders), in BOTH the DC public schools and the DC charter schools, have gone missing when it is time for them to be counted as seniors (12th graders). The differences in attrition rates are trivial: 43% for the charter schools and 45% for the public schools.

Our data does NOT tell us where these students have gone. Some probably moved or transferred to another state, or went to a private or parochial school, or have been incarcerated, but a significant fraction of them of them probably flat-out dropped out of school. It would be wonderful if there was a source of data that tracked where these students actually went, but let’s not hold our breath waiting for that data to be gathered and released.

Think of the advantages of the charter schools in recruiting their students: a parent has to somehow navigate the application system, fill out the lottery form, appear for interviews, and agree to the behavior and attendance and work requirements — all of which will eliminate a large fraction of the hardest-to-reach students who have parents who are simply non-functional. However, for all of their boasts of 100% graduation rates, the DC charter schools either expel or push out large fractions of their incoming high school students, or those students withdraw on their own (for whatever reasons we can only guess at).

dcps hs attrition

 

 

dc charter high school attrition


Other than the colors and the total count of students, you will not notice much of a difference between the two graphs shown above. The first one shows how the students in the regular DC public high schools have been disappearing from the rolls (or not) over the past 9 years, and the second one shows how the students in the DC charter high schools have been disappearing over the past 8 years.

My conclusion?

High school dropouts are a very serious problem in Washington DC, and that attrition rate is virtually the same in both the regular public schools and in the charter schools. The charter schools do NOT have a magic wand that has solved the problem.

================

I also attach charts showing the entire enrollment, by grade level and year, for all of DC public schools and all of the DC charter schools, for the past decade. These tables were painstakingly gathered by Erich Martel, a retired DC social studies teacher (last at Phelps and Wilson), who has been raking through files showing administrative malfeasance for a very long time in the administration of DC public schools. His source has been the official audited enrollment figures published by OSSE (Office of the State Superintendent of Education).

dc public school audited enrollment 2002-2013

 

dc charter school audited enrollment 2003 through 2013
The colors are important here, because they allow you to follow a cohort, or age-group, diagonally down and to the right, as they proceed through their years in school. For example, the charter school “Class of 2012” in our last graph is the magenta diagonal that reaches the 12th grade in 2011-12. This group started in the fourth grade, in SY 2003-4, with 843 students. The next year, in 5th grade, in SY 2004-5, it had 919 students. Obviously some students entered this cohort at some point between October 2003 and 2004 (and most likely some kids departed as well; the data does not tell us how much churn took place, only the net loss or gain). This magenta-colored cohort reached its maximum size in the 7th grade, with two thousand, one hundred nineteen students. By the beginning of 9th grade, that cohort had 1,971 students, and by October of 2011, at the beginning of their senior year, the overall charter school cohort that I am calling the “Class of 2012” had shrunk to 987 students,  which is almost exactly half the size that it was when it began the 9th grade in 2008 with 1971 students. So I say that the attrition rate for that class was 50%, since 50% of the incoming high school freshman class has somehow vanished by the time that the rest of the cohort reached 12th grade.

I am not aware of any single DC charter school or public school that goes all the way from pre-school through 12th grade. However, as far as I have seen, every public or charter school that offers 9th grade now goes all the way to 12th grade, so it seems quite fair to examine the attrition rate for charter and regular public schools as a whole.

In the regular public schools, that same class went from 5,375 students in October 2002, when they began third grade, to 2,972 students when they began 8th grade in 2007, to 4,571 students when they began the 9th grade in 2008, and shrunk to 2,114 students when they began the 12th grade in 2011, for a high-school attrition rate of 54% for that particular age-group.

I notice something very weird about the regular DC public school enrollment figures: there is an enormous jump in enrollment from 8th grade to 9th grade, and then a large drop from 9th grade to 10th grade. My colleagues who teach high school tell me that this is because large numbers of students are made to repeat 9th grade; some of them are eventually skipped past the 10th grade, in part because administrators don’t want them to have to take the 10th grade DC-CAS test, because their scores would be low.

Notice that over the past decade, the 9th grade DC public school enrollment has totaled over fifty thousand students, larger than any other grade, which is awfully fishy, since the 8th grade total enrollment over that time was only about thirty-six thousand students and 10th grade total enrollment was a bit under thirty-eight thousand students.

Since the 9th grade DCPS enrollment figures seem artificially inflated (by a LOT), one might conclude that the attrition rates calculated in this post for DC public schools are higher than they ought to be.

Perhaps.

But however you measure it, attrition is a very serious problem in DC, and nobody has solved it.

======

If you want to see the attrition rates at individual DC charter schools, look here.

Published in: on March 27, 2014 at 9:16 am  Comments (1)  
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Charter Schools in DC Have A Track Record — And It’s Not Good

The Corporate Educational Deformers (or GERM) now have a record by which they can and should be judged; after all, they have been severely criticizing the regular public schools for all sorts of failings that they promised to fix by, among other things, establishing charter schools that would perform miracles with all the students that the regular public schools were supposedly giving up on and ignoring.

Two of those ills are: students dropping out, and not good enough test scores — particularly among poor students in general of all ethnicities and minority students in particular.

How are the charter schools doing?

Erich Martel, a veteran DCPS social studies teacher who has been a persistent and eloquent critic for many years of the errors and abuses perpetrated by the administrators of DCPS, now has prepared a number of charts that show how many students are in each of the charter schools’ grade levels over time. I modified the formatting a little bit and made Excel calculate the percentages of growth or decline for each cohort as they approached their senior year of high school. I hope he will forgive any errors I made.

Erich has kindly colored the cells so that you can follow each cohort of students as they move from 9th grade through 10th, 11th, and eventually on to 12th grade.

For example, in the first school listed below, Maya Angelou at Evans, you can follow the blue diagonal. You will see that in the 9th grade in 2003/4, there were 14 students. The next year, that same cohort swelled to 26 students, and in the 11th grade they had increased their numbers to 29. (Don’t ask me details on exactly how this all happened — you would have to ask somebody who had close connections to the school.)

But by 12th grade, that cohort had shrunk all the way down to 11 students.

How and why? I can only guess. But that is an enormous shrinkage from either 10th or 11th grade.

The next cohort, in green, went from 50 freshmen in grade 9 in 2004/5, to 53 sophomores (grade 10) in 2005/6, but only 50 are listed as taking the 10th grade DC-CAS; that’s what column “10 CAS” means. By 11th grade, their numbers increased to 56 students, but in the 12th grade during SY 2007/8, they lost 23 students and shrunk to merely 33 seniors.

Where’d they all go? Your guess is probably as good as mine, unless you have more inside information than I do.   When the numbers went down, at least some of the students returned to regular public schools (forced out? pressured out? got disgusted? too long a commute? we don’t know), and certainly some of them dropped out of school completely, got a job, or moved out of the city to another state. Hopefully, very few of the dropouts met an early grave! I don’t exactly know how many belong to which category; anecdotal information is not quite the same as data…

However, the data people downtown in DCPS and OSSE do have that information available, easily, since they can track each and every single student via standard computer database queries using the DCPS student information numbers; but so far they choose not to reveal it. I suspect that some data experts would love nothing more to reveal secrets like that but are under strict orders not to.

The last three columns in these charts show how the number of students changes from 9th grade to 12th grade and then from the 10th grade to the 12th grade, or from incoming 9th graders to those taking the DC-CAS as sophomores the next year. If you want to make any other comparisons, feel free to  get out a calculator and do it yourself.

In those last three columns, percentages shown in black letters mean that the student body actually grew from freshman (or sophomore) year through the senior year, 12th grade. Red lettering means it fell, i.e. students dropped out of this particular cohort in this particular school in one way or another.

 

So for the blue cohort at Angelou Evans, the class that was to graduate in 2007, their numbers overall went from 14 freshmen to 11 seniors, a drop of 3 kids; 3 divided by 14 by calculator gives 0.2142857…, which we rounded off to  NEGATIVE 21%, which is indicated in red and with a minus sign. That same cohort went from 26 sophomores to 11 seniors, a drop of 15 kids. A loss of 15 students, compared with a starting number of 26 students, by division, yields a loss of about 58%. Not so good.

And so on for all the other cohorts at that school and at all the other DC privately-run “public” charter schools.
In many cases, Martel simply doesn’t have any numbers. That can be for a variety of reasons. In those cases, I did not calculate a percentage of growth or shrinkage, because I simply don’t know the facts.

The myth is that DC charter schools are NOT experiencing dropouts over the high school years. Unfortunately, this is not the case.  If the last two columns were all black, that would show that HS students are flocking to the charter schools in significant numbers and are in general, not dropping out (or being forced out).

Lots of red is a very, very bad sign.

However, the vast majority of the last three columns are printed in RED, meaning that enrollment of the vast number of cohorts declined, according to this data.

So where exactly are  these miracles about solving the drop-out rate taking place in these supposedly miracle-working charter schools?

I only see two charter schools, out of the entire lot, that have a significant number of percentages printed in BLACK, showing cohort growths over time: Washington Math-Science .Tech Academy and the Booker T. Washington charter schools. The rest are either in RED, or are blank because numbers are not being released.

Let me add that I am very impressed with Martel’s data. I’ve been looking for stuff like this for quite some time!

Strange Events at Dunbar SHS

Dunbar SHS has been in the news a lot recently. Erich Martel, a history teacher punitively transferred from Wilson, has dug deeply into the record, and has written the following:

[Attachment(s) from Erich Martel included below] 

Dunbar’s Decline Began Long Before Rhee and Continued Under Her

by Erich Martel
Dunbar HS has been in the news.  Supt Janey’s and Chancellor’s Rhee’s actions regarding Dunbar do not tell a simple hero – villain story.  Mostly, they reveal how tests and data can be adjusted to give the appearance of improvement and that students continue to receive diplomas that do not represent mastery of DCPS subject standards. The data from Dunbar HS are typical of those in many of our high schools.
For several decades, students have been allowed to graduate from DCPS high schools like Dunbar without meeting mandatory requirements in core subject matter. Standardized tests occasionally reveal, if only approximately, how great the gulf between image and reality is.  This commentary grew out of an attempt to address the following questions, which Colbert King’s article on Dunbar HS brought to mind:
1) How could DCPS officials say that “70% of the class of 2007 were expected to attend college,” when two years earlier grade 10 SAT9 tests revealed that over 90% received Below Basic scores in math and over 65% received Below Basic scores in reading?
and
2) Miracle or Mirage: How was the following possible:
April 2005:  SAT9 Grade 10 Math:  no students scored advanced; 3 students scored proficient;
April 2006:  DC CAS Grade 10 Math: 5 students scored advanced; 58 students scored proficient.
Hiding or attempting to manipulate reality always has consequences:  a few benefit; most pay a price.
Erich Martel
Social Studies
Phelps ACE HS
DCPS
(In January 2008, I was the WTU representative on the Quality School Review Team that visited Dunbar HS, a step that was preliminary to the chancellor’s restructuring decision under NCLB)
Overview
1)  Posted data on the OSSE site are incomplete
2) What do truancy and graduation rate data show?
3)  Dunbar’s SAT9 and DCCAS results I:  Miracle or Mirage on NJ Ave.? (See attachment, sheet 1)
4)  Dunbar’s SAT9 and DCCAS results II:  Miracle or Mirage on NJ Ave.? (See attachment, sheet 1)
5) Graduation: How is it that “70% of [the Dunbar class of 2007] were expected to attend college”?
6)  Correlation of Graduation Numbers and Grade 10 SAT9 Results
7)  In-house Alteration of Students’ Records
8) Enrollment Decline at Dunbar HS (attachment, sheet 2)
9) Student Records Audit at Dunbar HS, 2002-03
COMMENTARY
1)  Posted data on the OSSE site are incomplete, probably due to the failure of DCPS – and charters – to provide them.
For example:
a) Truancy data are available for only four years:  2003-04 to 2006-07 (Attachment, sheet 1, columns J & K);
b) Average daily attendance data are available for only 2009-10 (Sheet 1, column L);
c) Graduation rate data are available for only 2008-09 and 2009-10 (Sheet 1, Column M) (Columns E & I show the senior completion rates: number of June graduates divided by the number of seniors on the October OSSE enrollment count, 8 months earlier)
2) What do truancy and graduation rate data show?
a) Truancy at Dunbar went from 18.39% in 2003-04 (the year before Janey arrived) to 16.68% (his first year); the almost doubled to 29.99% in 2005-06 before climbing to 42.86% in his last year.
c) The graduation rate dropped from 81.7% in 2008-09 to 74.7% in 2009-10.
Was that Bedford’s fault? Those rates do not report that the majority of the students needed Credit Recovery and/or summer school to pass one or more courses needed for graduation.
The real test of graduation validity:  How many graduates who enrolled in colleges or professional schools:
i.  Needed to take non-credit remedial courses before moving on to credit-bearing courses?
ii. Lasted for at least one semester?    …. for two semesters?
3)  Dunbar’s SAT9 and DCCAS results I:  Miracle or Mirage? (See attachment, sheet 1)
a) Between April 1999 to April 2005 only 22 Dunbar 10th graders (out of 1,564 tested; not including the Pre-Engineering Academy) received scores of Advanced or Proficient on the SAT9 Math.
In April 2005, the last year of the SAT9, only 3 10th grade students scored Proficient (no one scored Advanced).
Yet, one year lated, April 2006, the first year of the DC CAS, 5 scored Advanced & 58 scored Proficient, a number  almost 3 times greater than the total (22) of the previous seven years.
b)  That dramatic increase occurred at the same two years that truancy jumped from 16.68% to 29.99%.
c)  The number of Adv & Prof scores then dropped during Janey’s last year (06-07), down in 07-08 (Rhee’s first year), up in 08-09, and down again in 09-10.
4)  Dunbar’s SAT9 and DCCAS results II:  Miracle or Mirage? (See attachment, sheet 1)
a)  In April 2005, 206 Dunbar 10th graders (out of 227 tested; not including the Pre-Engineering Academy) received scores of Below Basic on the SAT9 Math; one year later, April 2006, it dropped to 82, rose in 2007 to 98, fell to 72, then 61 and finally 38 in 2010 (under Bedford).
5) Graduation: How is it possible that “70% of [the Dunbar class of 2007] were expected to attend college”? (Colbert King, Washinton Post, 12/18/10).
Consider:  According to the OSSE enrollment audit, the Dunbar HS class of 2007 (seniors, including 25 Pre-Engineering seniors) numbered 223 students.
Two years earlier, in April 2005, the tenth graders of the future Class of 2007 produced the following results on the SAT9:
Math (Total:  227 students):  attachment:  sheet 1
Advanced:  0 students
Proficient:  3 students (or 1.32%)
Basic:   18 students (7.93%)
Below Basic:  206 students (90.75%)
Reading (Total:  234 students); attachment:  sheet 3
Advanced:  0 students
Proficient:  4 students (or 1.71%)
Basic:   75 students (32.05%)
Below Basic:  155 students (66.24%)
Recall what the four performance levels are supposed to mean (source:  “Stanford 9 Special Report:  Performance Standard Scores,” Harcourt Brace Educational Measurement, 1997):
Advanced: “signifiies superior academic performance”
Proficient: “denotes solid academic performance”
Basic: “denotes partial mastery” (emphasis added)
Below Basic:  “signifies less than partial mastery”
In June 2007, Dunbar HS had 171 graduates for a senior completion rate of 76.7% (171 graduates / 223 seniors).
Assuming that these were the top students who took the SAT9 two years earlier, the class of 2007 included only 3 students who were showed “solid academic achievement” in math and only 4 in reading.  Of the 171, only 18 had shown “partial mastery” in math, while 75 had shown “partial mastery” in reading.
Of that 171, 70% (120 students) were “expected to attend college.”  Thus, leaving aside the 51 students (30%) not expected to attend college, the 120 who [were] expected to attend college showed the following performance two years earlier as tenth graders:
In Reading:
– 0 showed “superior academic performance”
– 4 showed “solid academic achievement”;
– 75 showed “partial mastery”;
– 41 showed “less than partial mastery”
In Math:
– 0 showed “superior academic performance” 

– 3 showed “solid academic achievement”;
– 18 showed “partial mastery”;
– 99 showed “less than partial mastery”
6.  Correlation of Graduation Numbers and Grade 10 SAT9 Results
By the end of the 3rd Advisory or marking period, when students take the SAT9 (since 2006, the DC CAS), they have completed or should have completed Algebra I and Geometry.  How likely is it that 99 out120 students who showed less than partial mastery in grade 10 math were likely to overcome that deficit and master Algebra II/ Trigonometry or mastery of the elements of four years of English and writing skills?
Undoubtedly, some students managed to improve over the remaining two years.  By the same token, however, the depressing anti-academic attitudes that hamper teaching and learning could very easily have led some students who did well in grade 10 to lose interest.  In fact, most of the students required easier summer school classes to meet graduation requirements.
7.  In-house Alteration of Students’ Records
As the review of student academic records at Dunbar in 2002-03 concluded ( http://www.dcpswatch.com/dcps/030922b.htm and below) “the opportunity for tampering was greatly enhanced and the reliability of the students’ records was questionable.” Despite recommendations of a Student Records Management Task Force (August 2003), no systemic steps were taken to ensure that student records were secure against internal tampering. That was revealed in Wilson HS’s Class of 2006, when approximately 200 of the 420 seniors listed on the June graduation day program had not completed their mandatory requirements.  It is not known whether the DC Inspector General’s report of the audit of Wilson HS graduation records led Supt. Janey to tighten procedures in other high schools (http://tinyurl.com/2nukmj ).
8.   Enrollment Decline at Dunbar HS (attachment, sheet 2)
In order to understand the decline in enrollment in Dunbar HS, one must factor out the grade 9 increases, beginning in 2006-07, when 9th grades in high schools began to increase as junior high schools were transformed into middle schools.
Dunbar’s total enrollment dropped from 1070 in 2002-03 to 913 in 2006-07 (adjusted to 887) in Supt Janey’s last year.  The October 2009 adjusted enrollment (factoring out the grade 9 increase) is 664, down by more than 200 since Chancellor Rhee took over.
9. Student Records Audit at Dunbar HS, 2002-03
Following the revelations of altered student records at Wilson HS in June 2002, DCPS contracted with Gardiner Kamya Inc. to conduct reviews of 59 students’ transcripts and supporting documentation in each DCPS high school.  The following is Dunbar HS’s report.  It is posted on the dcpswatch website, because DCPS officials did not post it.
GARDINER KAMYA & ASSOCIATES, PC
CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS / MANAGEMENT CONSULTANTS

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA PUBLIC SCHOOLS

INDEPENDENT ACCOUNTANTS’ REPORT ON APPLYING AGREED-UPON PROCEDURES REGARDING STUDENT RECORDS AT SIXTEEN HIGH SCHOOLS/SITES http://www.dcpswatch.com/dcps/030922b.htm

MARCH 30, 2003 (End of Field Work)
July 17, 2003 (DC PS Response)
September 22, 2003 (Report Submitted)

Submitted by:
Gardiner, Kamya & Associates, P.C.
1717 K Street, NW Suite 601
Washington, DC 20036

7. DUNBAR SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL

  1. Internal controls (Procedure #1, Page 7)
    The school did implement the grade verification process mandated by the DCPS. However, due to the state of the student records and the results of the procedures detailed below, we conclude that internal controls with respect to student grades were ineffective and there was no assurance that such grades were accurately reflected in the student records.
  2. Confidentially maintained (Procedure #2, Page 9)
    The procedure was completed without exception. [Comment:  This means that all alterations were done by those with legal access to student records]
  3. Completeness of Cumulative and Electronic files (Procedure #3, Page 9)
    1. Cumulative Files
      Eighteen files in our sample of 59 were incomplete. Two files were missing. Some of the incomplete files were missing more than one item. The missing items were as follows: 

      1. It is the school’s policy to create a Letter of Understanding for all students in grades 9 -12. However, the school could not provide a Letter of Understanding for 14 students in our sample;
      2. Two student’s file did not contain a transcript;
      3. Three students’ files did not contain a 9th grade report card;
      4. Six students’ files did not contain a report card;
      5. One student’s file did not contain either a 9th or 11th grade report card;
      6. One student did not have a 10th grade report card in his/her file.
    2. Electronic Files
      The school could not provide electronic data (COHI and SIS-HIST) for six students in our sample. Consequently, we could not determine the completeness of those files.
  4. Consistency (Procedure #4, Page 9)
    The school could not provide the teachers’ scan sheets for 31 of the 59 student files in our sample. In addition, 19 students had transferred in. Scan sheets were not available for these students. Also, the school did not provide report cards for 11 students, and two students’ file did not include a transcript. Of the records available for our review, we noted the following: 

    1. Two (2.0) credits were reported on the transcript of one student (for Army Jr. ROTC). The report card reported 1.0 credit.
  5. Accuracy (Procedure #5, Page 10)
    1. Carnegie Units and Letters of Understanding
      1. The transcripts of three students were not consistent with their Letters of Understanding as follows:
        1. One student’s transcript reported a credit of 1.0 for “Art 1 “. However, the Letter of Understanding reported a credit of 0.5 for the same course. Also, the transcript reported zero credits for electives. The Letter of Understanding reported 0.5 credits;
        2. One student’s transcript reported a credit of 1.0 for “Adapt Health and PE”. However, the Letter of Understanding did not report this credit; and
        3. One student’s transcript reported a credit of 2.0 for Army Jr. ROTC. However, the Letter of Understanding awarded a credit of 1.0.
      2. We could not determine whether classes taken and credits earned by 15 students were in accordance with DCPS Carnegie Unit requirements for the following reasons:
        1. Two student’s file did not contain a transcript;
        2. One student’s file contained a Letter of Understanding that was not completed by a counselor. In addition, the credits had not been properly calculated;
        3. The school could not provide a Letter of Understanding for 14 students;
      3. The Letters of Understanding in our sample did not report hours earned for community service.
    2. Mathematical accuracy of credits
      The school could not provide report cards for 11 students. In addition, the transcript of one student reported 2.0 credits awarded for Army Jr. ROTC, a one-year course while the report card showed 1.0 credit for this course.
    3. Grade changes
      The school could not provide electronic records for 6 students. The procedure was completed with respect to the remaining students without exception.
    4. Missing grades
      The procedure was completed without exception.
    5. Independent studies
      This school does not offer independent studies.
    6. Transfer credit
      The procedure was completed without exception.
  6. Tampering (Procedure #6, Page 11)
    Of the 59 student records included in our sample: 

    1. Twenty files were incomplete;
    2. The school could not provide scan sheets for 31 students;
    3. Scan sheets were not available for an additional 19 students who had transferred in;
    4. The school could not provide the electronic files for 6 students.
      We also noted that all administrative staff (i.e., principal, assistant principals, registrar and counselors) used the same password to gain read/write access to students’ electronic record. Because of these factors, the opportunity for tampering was greatly enhanced and the reliability of the students’ records was questionable.

Conclusion:

Based on the procedures performed, we conclude that:

  1. Internal controls were inadequate;
  2. Student records were incomplete, inconsistent, inaccurate, and unreliable;
  3. We could not conclude with respect to tampering because a significant number of files selected for review were not made available to us.



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