Texas’ Marlin High School delays graduation as seniors fail to meet requirements : NPR

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Marlin High School in Texas was supposed to hold its graduation this week – but postponed the ceremony, saying only a small portion of the senior class could graduate.

Google Maps/Screenshot from NPR

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Google Maps/Screenshot from NPR

Marlin High School in Texas was supposed to hold its graduation this week – but postponed the ceremony, saying only a small portion of the senior class could graduate.

Google Maps/Screenshot from NPR

Students at Marlin High School in Texas were celebrating the end of classes on Wednesday — and preparing for graduation later in the week — when the school district announced a stunning change of plans: Graduation will be postponed until sometime in June.

Of 33 seniors in the school’s traditional program, only five met the requirements to earn a diploma, Marlin ISD Superintendent Darryl Henson said, citing an initial internal audit of attendance, grades and credits that began last week has passed. (The district’s audit did not include seniors in the school’s alternative education program, he said.)

School officials worked with students over the weekend and this week to help an additional 12 students resolve missing credits and other issues as of Wednesday evening, Henson said. But the district chose to stop the ceremony until more than those 17 students can graduate.

Students and parents vent their frustrations

“It’s emotional” for all the students affected, said one parent, in a meeting with administrators was held on Wednesday evening in the school auditorium. “They get their hopes up: ‘I’m graduating next week! I’m at Six Flags!'” she added, referring to a senior trip the previous Friday.

Other parents spoke of their families’ confusion and disappointment — including at least one case where relatives were flying in from Mexico to see their grandchildren get their diplomas. Some said the setback came after their students took classes in summer school.

“The support was there” for the students from the teachers, said Jesse Bustamante, Marlin’s director of human resources who also taught at the high school this year.

But students at the meeting strongly disagreed, venting their frustrations on a litany of issues. They called teachers who, the students said, were often absent. They also said administrators delayed telling students about the credits left in their class hour, only to deliver different numbers later.

One student said that when she was told she needed to do “credit recovery” for an online class earlier this year, it took three months — and repeated email requests — for the school to make the class available to her.

The school district cites state standards

William Ealy, the school’s dean of instruction, said the school tried to warn parents that their older students were not on track to finish on time, held an open house, called the parents, send a notice and offer to host meetings.

“Let this be a lesson to all,” headmaster Henson he said via Twitter. “As we continue to go through our annual graduation audit, it is our obligation to ensure that all students have met all requirements.”

“Students in Marlin ISD will be held to the same high standard as every other student in Texas,” he added.

The school district announced the sudden change in plans through Facebooksparking a spirited debate in the community and online about how the school reached this point – parents dispute that the school made adequate efforts to warn them – and whether the delay is fair for students who have fulfilled all their obligations and were ready to graduate.

Marlin is a small town southeast of Waco, near the Brazos River. The most recent Texas Schools report card Marlin High School assigned a “B” rating. — an assessment based on how it performs in comparison to other schools with student populations in similar economic conditions. The report said that nearly 99% of Marlin High’s 229 listed students are economically disadvantaged.

As he absorbed the criticism and promised improvement at Wednesday’s meeting, Henson apologized to the parents. He also said that it is important to support all the students of the school, and its teachers.

“We’re going to be confident educators in this district,” Henson said, “because we have to come from so far back.”

Marlin schools will see changes next year

The school and others in the Marlin district will convert to a four-day school schedule next year, under a plan adopted last month. Nikisha Edwards, the district’s chief academic officer, he said the change should reduce absenteeism rates.

The district he hopes too the four day week will make it easier to attract and retain high quality teachers. According to the plan, students will attend class Monday through Thursday most weeks. But they also go to school on the first Friday of every month, and every Friday in three months: August, January and May.

Four-day schedules have been a growing trend in public education, particularly for rural and small districts struggling with budget constraints, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Marlin High is also looking to hire new teachers, advertising starting salaries at $50,798 and commuter incentives of up to $1500, along with other incentives.

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