by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Investigative journalists discovered that a school where “every senior got into college” allowed students with numerous unexcused absences to graduate.
An investigation by WAMU and NPR has found that Ballou High School’s administration graduated dozens of students despite high rates of unexcused absences. We reviewed hundreds of pages of Ballou’s attendance records, class rosters and emails after a district employee shared the private documents. Half of the graduates missed more than three months of school last year, unexcused. One in five students was absent more than present — missing more than 90 days of school.
One passage, in particular, caught my attention.
Many teachers we spoke to say they were encouraged to also follow another policy: give absent or struggling students a 50 percent on assignments they missed or didn’t complete, instead of a zero.
This did not surprise me at all. The automatic 50 percent is an unofficial policy at some public schools in N.C. In 2013, the Wake County school board even considered making it district policy.