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D.C. Charter School Graduation Rates Dip To 69 Percent

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The public charter school system in D.C. saw a significant decrease in its overall high school graduation rate last year. It fell to 68.9 percent from a rate of 75.6 percent the previous year.

Scott Pearson, the executive director of the D.C. Public Charter School Board, says the board is still looking into why there's been the drop of nearly 7 percentage points. The information was released Friday soon after WAMU 88.5 aired a report on difficulties in obtaining the numbers.

"The one thing I can say is the lowest graduation rates by far are schools that will be closing at the end of this year or that closed last year," he says.

But it isn't just poorly performing schools that have seen decreases in their graduation rates. Top-ranked public charter schools — including Washington Latin and KIPP D.C. College Prep — have seen drops of 11 and 10 percentage points.

Pearson says it's important to recognize many students may take longer than four years to graduate.

"Charter school five-year graduation rates are closer to 80 percent," he says.

The traditional D.C. public school system's graduation rate is lower, but last year showed an increase of 2 percentage points to 58 percent. Three schools showed double-digit increases.

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education, or OSSE, routinely releases the final certified graduation rates. But this year, despite repeated requests for almost a month, the office would not provide the information on charter schools.

Correction: As a result of incorrect information provided by a D.C. public charter school board spokesperson, this story originally misstated the last year's high school graduation rate for D.C. public charter schools.

Support for education reporting on WAMU 88.5 comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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