D.C. Schools Post the Lowest High School Graduation Rate In The Nation

Washington, D.C. had the worst high school graduation rate in the country in 2011 — down roughly 20 percent from just two years ago. The drop appears partially the result of a new (and better) accounting system that tracks actual students rather than allowing a ridiculous calculation method that tended to inflate numbers. Nevada had the lowest graduation rate of any state (62 percent) and D.C. did worse than Native American reservations (61 percent). The best state was Iowa with 88 percent followed by Vermont and Wisconsin (both at 87 percent).


The rate in Washington, D.C. for 2009-2010 was 76 percent rate. The current figure is a disgrace and shows a continuing failure of the school system with 71,284 students in 191 schools. The district received $98.3 million dollars in federal funding during 2011.

With over four out of ten students not graduating on time in D.C., the school system has long been criticized for poor teacher quality and management. In comparison to the 58 percent rate, Fairfax (the affluent suburb next door has an almost 92 percent graduation rate). Clearly the comparison with Fairfax must taken into account an obvious difference in the extreme level of poverty and violence that faces the D.C. school system. This is no easy task when the schools must deal with crippling socio-economic problems. However, the D.C. schools are well behind other school systems facing similar challenges.

In 2008, the federal government required that states and D.C. stop using a questionable system where they simply divided the number of students receiving diplomas by the number of those who started ninth grade four years earlier. That calculation inflated the numbers of graduates. Now they must track individual students.

As a long supporter of public schools, I find these figures incredibly depressing. Leslie and I have kept our kids in public schools because we are strong believers in the role of public schools in our society as well as the more pluralistic environment for learning. These schools are the bedrock for our society and their decline does not bode well for our future. The over 40 percent of kids not graduating are set on a path that will limit their opportunities and personal growth as adults. It is not only tragic for them but tragic for society.

Frankly it also shows a continuing failure of the D.C. government to meet this basic obligation. D.C. politicians tend to blame Congress for its ills despite the fact that the District (with considerable federal support) spends the most of any school system in the nation: $18,667 per pupil. Yet, it produces the worst results of any system. SAT reading scores are at a four decade low in D.C. That is not just a factor of socio-economics as other major cities have shown. It is a failure of leadership and competence.

Source: Washington Post

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