Unearned Diplomas

Read this piece at Manhattan Institute


Unearned Diplomas by Max Eden and Alice B. Lloyd

Earlier this month, the Department of Education released the latest figures on high school graduation: After rising every year for five years, the national rate hit an all-time high of 84 percent in 2016. Good news, surely.

At Ballou High School in southeast Washington, D.C., the news was even more promising: 100 percent of its senior class last June was accepted to college. NPR covered the story with gravitas and congratulations. Breathless celebration spanned the web, from Mashable to Jezebel, with feel-good headlines like “Every Single Senior at This Low Income D.C. School Earned Their Way into College.”

Just the year before, Ballou had passed only 57 percent of its seniors, a mere 3 percent of whom met reading standards on citywide exams (and almost none of whom were proficient in math). What a reversal of fortune!

But if Ballou’s seniors were suddenly all making it through, their teachers weren’t: More than a quarter of Ballou’s teachers quit before the end of the 2016-17 school year—citing students’ poor behavior and attendance, an unsupportive administration, and an unfair system of teacher evaluation.

So how, exactly, could students’ performance have improved so drastically, even as their teachers were quitting in droves? To her great credit, Kate McGee, a reporter for NPR-affiliate WAMU in Washington, didn’t let the story end with graduation. She found an explanation for the miracle: systematic fraud.


Read the entire piece here at The Weekly Standard, originally appearing on December 22, 2017.


Max Eden is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Follow him on Twitter here.

Alice B. Lloyd is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.