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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Requiring the impossible leads to fraud

Abdullah Zaki, named District of Columbia Public Schools’ “principal of the year” in 2013, has been placed on leave for changing attendance records and not reporting suspensions.

Washington, D.C. public schools were held up as a model of “expert driven” education reform, writes Max C. Eden and Lindsey Burke on National Review. Much of the progress turns out to be “fraudulent.”

Suspensions declined dramatically. The Washington Post revealed administrators had failed to report suspensions.

The graduation rate soared. NPR revealed students who hadn’t shown up at school were getting diplomas.

DCPS’s “accountability” system required principals to do the impossible, they write.

You can’t make student behavior better through a dictate banning traditional school discipline. You can’t change life trajectories by ordering teachers to graduate students who fail their classes. Do things the old fashioned way — by offering teachers support, encouraging students and giving them structure, and making incremental improvements to curriculum and instruction — and you likely won’t achieve the so-called “transformational” change you’d need to be deemed a successful principal.

So principals cheated.

“The only thing that’s actually worked in Washington, D.C., has been school choice,” they write. “Randomized controlled trials show that kids in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship voucher program feel safer, learn more, and legitimately graduate more often. Charter schools have also driven real gains for low-income students in the district.” 

“True accountability,” write Eden and Burke, comes “when parents and the community, rather than clueless bureaucrats, are the ones putting pressure on schools.”

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