Q: I am sure mine won't be the only email you receive concerning your
article in today's paper. Mid-year graduations were routine for a long
time in Spokane high schools and not just because of dropouts. Several
of us in my class were graduating in three and a half years. Classes
started in grade school in mid-year.
A: There has been some discussion about the issue today and the accuracy of the mid-year graduations, i.e. whether they are "a first" as reported. I was told, by district officials, that the mid-year graduations were the first that anyone could remember (see Nancy Stowell's response below to an inquiry I sent to her today from a reader.) In my mind, they are a first for this generation.
Nobody knows for sure when the mid-year graduations stopped, but several people I interviewed said mid-year graduations in recent years have not been met with much fanfare, and are not a regular occurrence (students have more requirements now than those of the 1970s, 80s, and even 90s). No ceremony, like the one attended Thursday, was held. And it's true, some students who complete their required courses often graduate early, after first semester in January.
But I think the point of the story was that the district is really trying reaching out to those students who fall behind under a mountain of pressure, and include them in the right-of-passage so many more privileged Americans take for granted. The students who are able to complete required courses early are to be commended, and do have much to celebrate, but often choose to wait until June to participate in the grand commencement with their friends and classmates, because, they often have that option and the support of their family.
The seniors who agree to go another semester instead of dropping out because they fell behind for a variety of reasons (Thursday's graduates cited medical, socioeconomic, and just plain being a teenager and making poor choices as a reason...) also have much to celebrate, because they stuck with it, facing ridicule from their peers, and more importantly themselves, because they didn't finish "on time." The celebration of those individuals was the news, I think.
Sara Leaming, education reporter