Senior anxiety

In Maryland, only half of special-education 12th-graders and 15 percent of students who aren’t fluent in English have passed the graduation exams, compared to 83 percent of their classmates. Those who can’t pass all four tests by the end of the year can qualify “by getting a combined score of 1,602 on all the tests or by completing projects in the subjects in which they have failed tests,” reports the Baltimore Sun.

How educators view the plight of students is a highly emotional issue for some, such as Dunbar Brooks, a black state school board member, and Andres Alonso, a Latino who is Baltimore’s school chief executive officer. The tests, they and others argue, have raised the standards for the most vulnerable students, giving them access to a more rigorous curriculum.

They frame the argument as a civil rights issue, and say they witnessed those groups being held back by a poor education. Students who fail this June, they say, can remain in high school until they do pass.

That’s more “fair” than kicking them out with a diploma but without the skills they’ll need to succeed in college or qualify for a skilled job.

Maryland offers a “certificate of completion” for special education students deemed so disabled that they can’t meet normal graduation requirements. There’s no such out for students with minor disabilities or  immigrant students who don’t have enough time to master English by 12th grade. But they can follow the project path, get a diploma and hope to acquire the skills they need in community college.

About Joanne


  1. While a certificate of attendance makes sense for disabled children who are never going to perform better than they do today, I feel very uncomfortable about putting ESL students in the same category. Unless the high school is a complete waste of time, I think an academically-struggling ESL student would benefit greatly from an extra year (or even two) of high school, much more so than from receiving a piece of paper. The only problem with staying in high school that I can see is that the long hours would be unsuitable for a student who needs to support himself financially.

  2. Joanne,
    I’m a high school special education teacher here in Ontario, Canada. Students need to pass Ontario’s Literacy Test in order to graduate from high school. If students don’t pass the literacy test, they can take an intensive remedial course to help them master the skills they need. If they pass this course, then they can earn a high school diploma. Some students take an extra semester or two to complete the 30 credits they need to graduate and pass the literacy test. Students also need to complete 40 hours of volunteer time as well.Some students are granted a certificate. It is a fact that not all students have the ability to graduate from high school no matter how much support we give them.