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D.C. Says It Now Knows Why 40 Percent Of Students Don't Graduate

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Forty percent of ninth graders in D.C. don't graduate on time, and a new report is helping city officials identify those students earlier.
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Forty percent of ninth graders in D.C. don't graduate on time, and a new report is helping city officials identify those students earlier.

In D.C. public schools, 40 percent of ninth graders don’t graduate in four years. But thanks to a new report that looked at information from thousands of students, for the first time we now know a lot more about who these children are.

Celine Fejeran with D.C.’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education says they analyzed more than 18,000 students’ information and called the resulting data set “unprecedented."

"We actually can predict 25 percent of your chances of graduating before you even get to high school. That was a big 'aha' moment, this was really a wake-up stat for us," she says.

Of eighth graders who don't graduate on time, one-third were in special education classes, more than 75 percent of them didn’t pass reading and math tests and half of them missed more than a week of school.

But Fejeran says it isn’t just a student’s individual risk factors that matter. If you take the highest performing students in the city, their chances of graduating are “wildly different” based on where they go to high school.

"We’re finding some schools are graduating top performers at 30 percent and others are graduating top performers at 100 percent," she says. "So we know a lot about students before they set foot in high school but that’s not destiny because where they go to high school has the power to change that trajectory."

Half the students who fall off track as soon as they enter high school and have 58 days on average of unexcused absences are concentrated in just a few schools. But the deputy mayor's would not release the individual names of schools, nor schools that are performing far better than expected.

This information is helpful for principals who can now analyze their school specific information and reallocate resources to support these at-risk students.

D.C. officials will also open a "reengagement center" for youth younger than 24 who have already dropped and want to continue their education but don't know how.

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