New Rochelle High School seniors will participate in the school district's first 'certified graduation' next June, whereby only students who have met all credit requirements will be allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies.
In the past, students who were expected to complete their graduation requirements over the following summer months— perhaps after failing gym or needing to pass one Regents exam— were allowed to march with their classmates.
"There are students who were benefiting from having the summer to complete their credits who could, with a little extra early intervention, graduate on time," said Sara Richmond, president of the New Rochelle Board of Education, "A certified graduation makes the ceremony more meaningful for everyone."
Students who need much more time to finish their high school credits— maybe six months or a year— will continue to receive that extra time.
"We aren't taking time away from anyone. Those students will get the time they need and may march with the next class," said Richmond.
To accommodate the new requirement, the New Rochelle High School graduation has been pushed back a week, after all of the Regents exams are graded.
School administrators will start monitoring student performance as early as ninth grade to better identify children who may need more help.
"Last year, we sent letters in January to all students we thought were in danger of not meeting their graduation requirements so that they have time to meet them," Richmond said.
Diane Domo, parent of a high-school senior and eighth-grader, said the change is a good one.
"I like the idea they will be monitoring as early as ninth grade, because while many students are bright and focused and engaged, there are others who can get lost in the crowd a little bit," said Domo,"I've always thought if there was more focus on achieving and getting involved in extracurricular activities in ninth grade, some less-motivated students would be more active throughout their four years and maybe take school more seriously. Walking with your class at graduation could be a great motivator for some kids who need just a little push," she said.
A local mother of a high school senior and two other school-age children, who, worried about singling out her children, did not want to be identified, expressed concern about students with learning challenges who may need the summer to complete graduation requirements.
"There are kids who are trying their best and are still in danger of not finishing on time," she said. "They may have learning issues or have a medical or family issue in junior or senior year, such as a death of a parent or major surgery. I hope there is some understanding of this and decisions are made on a case-by-case basis."