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Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Washington D.C.

Washington, D.C. probes possible enrollment fraud at premier arts high school

Residency claims for many students at Duke Ellington School of the Arts are highly suspicious, officials say

An investigation by Washington, D.C., officials has uncovered signs of widespread enrollment fraud at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, one of the city’s most revered public schools,

The Washington Post reports that current and former government officials with knowledge of the probe say that a spot check of the records of about 100 students whose families claimed D.C. residency found that more than half may live outside the city. Nonresidents must pay an annual tuition of more than $12,000.

About 70 of Ellington’s 566 students are on record as living outside Washington, D.C., and their families pay tuition.

The investigation is not complete, but has identified many families whose claims of residency are highly suspicious, the officials say.

Ellington is a magnet school in the Georgetown neighborhood whose mission is to offer a premiere arts education to children who lack the financial means to develop their talents elsewhere.

The district's attorney general’s office must pursue monetary judgments against parents who violate the school district’s residency rules.

Rumors about residency fraud have floated around some Washington, D.C., public schools for years — particularly as the city’s modernized schools have made its campuses more attractive to suburban parents.

The imprimatur of an Ellington diploma has helped establish the careers of alumni such as comedian Dave Chappelle, opera singer Denyce Graves and conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas. The student body is 77 percent African American, 11 percent Latino and 7 percent white, according to school district data.

Ellington has an intensely competitive admissions process. Students must audition in their chosen art form and their family is interviewed. Once admitted, they go through 15 hours a week of pre-professional arts training.


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