State board member raises questions about graduation policy | NevadaAppeal.com

State board member raises questions about graduation policy

by Teri Vance, Appeal Staff Writer

“It’s taken four years of me trying my best and I got all my credits and I did everything that was required,” she said. “I think I at least deserve to walk for that.”

But Amy failed her last attempt at passing the proficiency exam before graduation, making her ineligible by the school’s standards to participate in the graduation ceremony.

“We hold to a high standard that has proven to be very successful at our school,” Principal Glen Adair said. “As you lower the bar, people scream to have it even lower. Then where’s your accountability?”

All Nevada students must pass the proficiency exam before receiving a high school diploma, but each district decides whether students who did not pass can participate in commencement exercises.

State school board trustee Barbara Myers is calling on the Carson City School Board to review the high school’s policy of excluding from the graduation ceremony those who did not pass.

“Graduation is a ritual — a culminating event,” Myers said. “It’s not for the kids, it’s for the grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles. What does commencement really mean?”

She said it is unfair to deny students a common rite of passage when they have completed all requirements for graduation except pass the state-mandated test.

Superintendent Mary Pierczynski supports Adair’s position.

“Our hearts go out to any student who doesn’t pass this test,” she said. “But our state has asked us to raise our standards and be accountable. If we let them walk anyway, we’re sending mixed messages.”

Adair said the strict line also serves as an incentive for students to pass the test. Last year, fewer than 1 percent of Carson High School seniors could not graduate because of the proficiency exam. In Clark and Washoe county school districts — where students are allowed to walk through graduation regardless of whether they passed the proficiency exam — 4.1 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively, did not receive their diplomas because of the exam.

But Amy said the policy just added to the pressure.

“The math is really ugly,” she said. “I kept thinking the whole time I was taking the test if I didn’t pass it I wasn’t going to graduate.”

Myers will speak during the public comment portion before tonight’s closed session board meeting to discuss employee contracts at 5 p.m. in the board room of the district office, asking board members to plan a meeting to talk about the policy.

Amy and her family members will also call on trustees to allow future students who do not pass the proficiency exam to participate in graduation ceremonies.

Bob Crowell, president of the school board, said he would be willing to consider placing the item on a future school board agenda.

“When the public wants to address the board, we should be there to hear them,” he said. “I’d be willing to listen to their arguments.”

However, he agrees with the policy already adopted at the high school.

“Nevada state law is pretty clear: You must pass the proficiency exam in order to receive a diploma,” he said. “I don’t think we should be sending any message to the students that says any different.”

Amy plans to take the exam again when it is offered July 17.

IF YOU GO

What: Special school board meeting

When: 5 tonight

Where: Board room of school district office, 1402 W. King St.