- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2007

A government audit released yesterday questioned whether D.C. public school system officials fairly apply graduation requirements in city schools and uncovered more than a dozen students at one high school who graduated despite failing to earn diplomas.

Students were allowed to graduate without meeting requirements at Woodrow Wilson Senior High School, according to the report by the D.C. Office of the Inspector General.

Wilson in Northwest last year handed out diplomas to 17 students who did not earn the required credits, the audit found. The report also noted that there were problems with graduation requirements citywide but focused on Wilson.

The school permitted the students to graduate even though they did not pass their required course work, including three students who were given improper credits by a guidance counselor, according to the report.

“Students graduated without meeting the graduation requirements because guidance counselors did not properly categorize courses,” according to the audit by Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby.

The report found that D.C. Public Schools do not “have well-defined or documented requirements or policies,” which increases the risk that school officials won’t apply graduation requirements consistently, auditors said.

The audit comes three years after a consultant hired by the school system found numerous bookkeeping problems at 16 high schools, including Wilson.

D.C. Schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janey requested the audit after Wilson history teacher Erich Martel voiced concerns about the accuracy of the school’s graduation rates.

It was not clear whether the report will prompt disciplinary action. Wilson Principal Stephen Tarason could not be reached yesterday.

In a written response to the audit, Mr. Janey said Mr. Tarason is convening a group to randomly select student records and review graduation requirements.

“To reduce confusion with staff, parents, students and community, Wilson Senior High School will immediately list only students meeting all graduation criteria on the graduation ceremony program,” Mr. Janey said.

Mr. Willoughby’s audit studied a sample of 75 graduating students at Wilson last year, finding that 17 should not have been allowed to graduate.

In addition, the report said Wilson did not have paperwork showing that 36 students completed the 100 hours of community service required for graduation.

Guidance counselors at the school told auditors that students completed the requirement, but they could not locate the documentation.

A guidance counselor granted credits to three students for an elective course called Office Assistant I enabling them to graduate. But auditors said there is no documentation on the students’ report cards or transcripts to show they passed or even took the course.

Another student who failed a Spanish course, missing more than 15 days of class, was nonetheless permitted to graduate, auditors found.

A guidance counselor told the Inspector General’s Office that the student passed the class but had no documentation to support the claim. In addition, the student’s report card showed that she got a C and three F’s in the class throughout the year.

Yet another student needed to complete a geography class during his senior year to graduate. The student failed the class but still was able to graduate, the report says.

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