To walk or not to walk. That is not the question

May 12, 2013 

Recently, a number of seniors in the Bibb County school system received the horrible news that they could not participate in graduation programs because they hadn’t met the graduation requirements. There seems to be more furor over not being able to “Walk with their class” than receiving their diplomas.

There are a number of reasons students may have found themselves in this uncomfortable predicament. The state requires seniors to have completed 28 Carnegie units and they must have passed the Georgia High School Writing Test, and either the End of Course Tests or the Georgia High School Graduation Tests. Note, students did not have to pass both the EOCT and the GHSGT. The state realized the two sets of tests are duplicative, Next year will be the last year the state will use the GHSGT. There are also attendance requirements and state assessments and faculty recommendations.

Admittedly there is a lot of testing going on to ensure that Georgia high school grads can meet the mark. In 2009, the Bibb County Board of Education, after much gnashing of teeth, implemented a policy that gave fair warning to students and parents that the 2008-2009 freshman cohort would not be allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies in 2013, if in fact, they had not met state requirements.

That day is here. Now pressure is being applied to the board by parents and students to allow those who have not earned the right to march to march.

Graduation is a solemn occasion. It is a right of passage and an outward display of accomplishment. It is about the accomplishment -- not the show. Allowing those to participate who haven’t made the grade cheapens the occasion for those who have. Aside from that consideration, the board found there was no incentive for students to return and retake the tests they did not pass, though there were several opportunities . Once the graduation show was over they didn’t come back to wipe the asterisk next to their names in the program away. That impacted the system’s graduation rate because they counted as dropouts.

This summer, students will have the opportunity to retake the EOCT, GHSGT and the GHSWT. If they pass they can participate in summer graduation ceremonies scheduled for July 26.

Life is not always what we believe to be fair. Parents may feel notification was inadequate. Some students failed one or more of the tests by a small handful of points. Some students, because of personnel changes, may not have had the opportunity for competent instruction. Parents should have been at the school or board meetings to demand better long before now.

This has been a four-year process. The lesson to those students unable to march is that there are consequences, and the life lesson is that they can overcome adversity if they have the grit.

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