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Dallas Graduation Rates Raise Eyebrows

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Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Mike Miles disputed charges that up to a quarter of the seniors who graduated last spring may have missed too much school to earn their diplomas.

It was the first time that Miles spoke on the issue since the Dallas Morning News reported last week that the district has been accused of breaking the state's attendance law.

Under a 2007 law by former Texas state representative Scott Hochberg, principals can institute programs for students to make up missed work in a class, as long as the students are passing the course and haven't been absent more than 25 percent of the time. 

Since the law took effect, the district's graduation rate has jumped from 63 percent to 84 percent. 

According to the Dallas Morning News, an internal district audit of ten high schools found that the district allowed 1,821 students with excessive absences to graduate without any documentation that they successfully made up the missing classwork.  In one instance, the newspaper reported that a student was given credit for missed time by cleaning the gym.

"They are violating the law. To me, that's no different than to just give credit if the student never showed up," Hochberg told the paper.

When asked about the audit after his State of the District address on September 16, before the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce, Superintendent Miles told the Dallas Business Journal that the district doesn't "give out diplomas unless the person has actually passed the course."  

Miles added that he's more interested in ensuring that students learn the material than in how much time they've spent sitting in a classroom.  In June, when he released the latest graduation rates at the 2020 Community Progress Report meeting, Miles acknowledged that student scores on the ACT and SAT exams, indicators of college readiness, were not where they should be, according to a recent article in the hub, an online newsletter published by the school district.

The hub also reported that at a meeting over the summer, the district's credit-recovery task force discussed ways the district can better monitor students' work and progress under the 2007 attendance law.

In the meantime, the Dallas Morning News reported that the district's internal audit division has expanded its investigation to include all the other high schools in the district and the Texas Education Agency is reviewing the first audit to decide whether to launch a state investigation.

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