Las Vegas Sun

November 24, 2017

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New law to cut number of high school seniors taking part in graduation ceremonies


Leila Navidi

Boys line up backstage during the Chaparral High School commencement ceremony at the Orleans Arena on Friday, June 15, 2012.

For years, Nevada allowed all seniors who passed their classes to walk at graduation, even if they failed the high school proficiency exam.

These students wore caps and gowns and walked across the stage with their class, but instead of a high school diploma, they received a “certificate of attendance.” More than 20 states, including the Silver State, awarded these certificates to hardworking seniors who “completed” high school, but failed to demonstrate proficiency in math, reading, writing and science.

However, last year, lawmakers ended this practice, eliminating the “certificate of attendance.” Policymakers said these certificates couldn’t get students into college, military and sometimes even the workplace. They feared parents were confusing certificates with actual diplomas, and wanted to strengthen graduation standards.

So next month, the Clark County School District — following new state laws — will no longer issue a “certificate of attendance” to hundreds of seniors. While some educators praise the more rigorous academic standards, some parents are protesting this policy change.

Parents argue that district officials should recognize their children’s work: attending and passing 12 years worth of classes. They said their children are being stripped of an important milestone, all because they couldn’t pass a single test.

Clark County Schools Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky said he empathizes with these parents and students. However, he said he is bound by the new state law. Students who pass the summer administration of the high school proficiency exam may walk at the district’s summer graduation in August, he said.

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