Sunday, September 30, 2007

IG report on graduation standards

I missed this when it was first released, but the office of the DC Inspector General released an audit of the DCPS graduation requirements. Here's the executive summary:
This report summarizes the results of the Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) Audit of the District of Columbia Public Schools’ Graduation Requirements (OIG No. 06-2-25GA). The Superintendent of the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) requested that our Office conduct the audit in response to allegations made by a teacher at Woodrow Wilson Senior High School (Wilson SHS).

Our overall audit objectives were to: (1) evaluate the protocols, authorities, and practices for certifying students for graduation; (2) determine if senior high school graduates satisfied the graduation requirements; and (3) assess the accuracy of student recordkeeping and the procedures for securing student records.

This report contains four findings that detail the conditions found during our audit. In our first finding, we found that Wilson SHS officials allowed 17 students to graduate in June 2006 even though the students did not complete academic requirements. Students graduated without meeting the requirements because guidance counselors did not schedule students to attend required courses, and guidance counselors did not properly categorize courses. In addition, three graduates did not pass their required courses but were allowed to graduate, and one guidance counselor improperly granted credits to three graduates. As a result, we believe the 17 graduates did not acquire the necessary knowledge and skills required for high school graduation.

In our second finding, we found that Wilson SHS officials did not submit an accurate graduation list to the Superintendent. This condition occurred because Wilson SHS officials did not maintain the clearance forms used to certify each student’s eligibility to graduate. In addition, the College Bureau staff - instead of the guidance counselors - prepared the graduation list, even though guidance counselors are responsible for certifying students. As a result, the Superintendent reported an incorrect number of graduates to the Board of Education.

In our third finding, we found that Wilson SHS officials did not maintain sufficient documentation to support that graduating students completed community service requirements. Specifically, Wilson SHS officials did not maintain sufficient documentation for 36 graduates. This condition occurred because DCPS has not issued official community service guidelines, and guidance counselors were unaware of the unofficial guidelines. As a result, we could not verify that these 36 graduates completed the required community service hours or otherwise met all requirements for graduation.

In our last finding, we found that school officials may misinterpret DCPS’s graduation requirements and policies because DCPS does not have well-defined or documented requirements and policies in the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR) and the Superintendent’s Directives. The lack of well-defined or documented requirements and policies increases the risk that school officials will not consistently apply graduation requirements.

We directed nine recommendations to the Superintendent, DCPS that we believe are necessary to correct the deficiencies noted in this report. The recommendations, in part, center on:
  • Establishing and implementing measures to ensure: (1) students complete the required Carnegie units prior to graduation; (2) transcripts accurately reflect earned Carnegie units; and (3) school officials follow the grade change procedures in the Faculty Handbook.
  • Instituting reforms for safekeeping records and requiring school officials to conduct a final review of the graduation list prior to submitting the list to the Superintendent.
  • Developing a community service directive and requiring school officials to periodically review student files.
  • Establishing new policies or revising existing policies to clarify graduation requirements and to institute consistent graduation protocols.

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