Positive Reasons to Encourage Students to Walk
Don't let the best be the enemy of the better. With 25% of students dropping out of school, it may be that most students taking and passing the CHSPE have a close to 50% chance of not graduating otherwise. Walking through graduation may be their only motivation to even continue with their education. The CHSPE is an educational compromise. Passing it can be joyous; not a moment of regret. Save criticism for dropouts; especially since CHSPE students frequently plan to continue their studies at a community college. Students and their families should be legitimately proud of earning the CHSPE, and remember they are the foundation of education - they're called taxpayers and voters.
Early graduation is not rejection. A school administration need not think that a student taking the CHSPE is rejecting them, the students are simply rejecting two more years of conventional school after completing eleven or twelve years. In short, school leaders shouldn't take CHSPE results as reflecting poorly on them. Passing CHSPE can be considered a vindication - students have succeeded early and are ready to move on; albeit not perfectly. They shouldn't be punished for leaving the nest; nor should administers think they failed.
Motivate ninth and tenth graders. The prospect of graduating school after 10th grade may help ninth and tenth graders try harder in math and language classes. Seeing happy people move on in a graduation ceremony, not a second class disappearance, serves as a powerful image. Hearing other students moan about not knowing enough math to pass the CHSPE will also have effects. In Alt Ed, juniors perform better than sophomores because they see the end of school and the pleasures of walking in graduation. The resulting success may even encourage them to stay!
Discourage pettiness. Do many hard-working honor/AP students and their parents seriously claim that "the normal students" don't deserve to be in graduation? Surely some do, but the complaints are ignored. Similarly, would normal graduates strongly state that those CHSPE students have no right to walk in our procession? It's absurd to believe they would. Should administrators be petty for them? Letting holders of CHSPE certificates walk brings joy with little cost to students who have been in the system for eleven years. In their mind, they have paid their dues to ed code. Advising that they stay in school is one thing. Denying them a small benefit of completing state requirements truly seems inappropriate.
Acknowledge the academic truth. How many at-risk graduates could pass the CHSPE anyway? Many retake the CAHSEE several times and CHSPE is far more difficult. Are conventional at-risk graduates actually more academically qualified? Where's the evidence of this? To err towards hurting people in this situation seems cruelly unwise.
Increase morale of instructors and staff. Teaching young adults who don't want to be in school yields poor learning results. Below Basic on CST's after a year of work is neither an honor for teachers nor students. Teachers may complain, but they also want to keep challenging students in Alt Ed. CHSPE students are in the highest quartile in Alt Ed. Yes, they should be encouraged to stay in school, but denied walking in graduation because they are more talented than other Alt Ed students? Upon reflection, most teachers would praise walking and the benefits it indirectly grants to their classrooms.
Embrace the CHSPE. There are many incredible and surprising advantages of students passing the CHSPE. Setting the stage for increasing it's deployment is enhanced by letting students walk in graduation.
Legal Considerations to Let Students Walk
California law states that the CHSPE certificate is equivalent to a high school diploma FOR ANY PURPOSE to agencies operating under California law. On the other hand, LEA's (e.g. school districts) have large sway in making policy under many precedents. In short, parents could sue to allow their child to walk with reasonable grounds for success. However, the proceedings will be messy and expensive and unproductive. The issue really is just being able to walk in graduation. It is simply too small an issue for an administration to fight considering the text of the state law. Where is the compelling school need to circumvent state law?
To count requirements twice can be construed as an effort to violate state law deliberately. A school may state that a diploma and other requirements such as community service and senior projects are required to walk in graduation ceremonies. This may seem reasonable, but a diploma is not issued until community service and a senior project are accepted. They are requirements for a diploma, not graduation! Where is the compelling school need to circumvent state law? In short, applying non-diploma requirements suggests that parents who sue should seek monetary damages from individuals, not just the right to walk from a school or district.
Precedent has been set for letting students not complete requirements in courses, but receive credits and grades of A with a boost in GPA. It is said that this practice is unofficial, but it is publicly recognized and accepted by administrators, with the caveat that by law teachers have this right in grading. However, these grades are used by the administration in boosting GPA scores that are used in school awards. This makes them official, not just tolerated. This is NOT a gray area as a result, but subjects schools to charges of hypocrisy, which undermines any LEA's arguments on consistency or integrity. Currently, many teachers award grades in AP courses based solely on AP test results. Classwork and participation are irrelevant. In short, the AP test is to AP course requirements as the CHSPE test is to high school requirements. If a school wants to argue that top students deserve special treatment while at-risk students should be treated brusquely . . . lots-of-luck! It is this argument that two lawyers who have reviewed this blog state would force a judge to rule in favor students. Almost without question, the official GPA boost from faulty AP grades is far more damaging to a school's environment than letting CHSPE students walk. To argue otherwise is obtuse.
Walking in graduation has been denied on behavioral grounds. For example, getting drunk at grad night disqualifies a student. Passing CHSPE is a positive event. In the past, pregnant woman and convicts who have served time, were not allowed to walk. Now they do, often with strong school and community praise. Is passing CHSPE sui generis? No. On its face, it is simply absurd to deny CHSPE students the opportunity to walk.