D.C. Voice, a community research group, found principals in DCPS high schools had to make "a cruel choice," deciding whether to spend scarce dollars on students struggling with basic courses or those excelling academically.
One principal says 11 percent of his students were considered "advanced," while 60 percent needed remedial classes and both groups competed for the same resources.
"We heard from a lot of principals, 'How can I focus on getting kids ready for college when I'm getting 9th- and 10th-graders reading at the 6th-grade level?'" says Jeff Smith, who heads D.C. Voice.
Smith also says they found the high rate of principal turnover to be a factor in how involved parents were and when students received information about college.
Generally, when principals were new, they focused on 12th-graders and needed time to develop relationships with parents. Half the 10 DCPS high school principals are new this year.