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Turner Bill To Block High School Students From Graduation Ceremonies If They Have Not Completed Requirements Advances

Measure Would Ensure Only Students Who’ve Completed Graduation Requirements Get to Participate in Commencement

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner which would prohibit high school students from participating in graduation ceremonies if they have not completed all the requirements for graduation was approved by the Senate Education Committee today by a vote of 3-1.

“I believe it diminishes the achievements of others when students who have not adequately completed the requirements for graduation are allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer and Hunterdon. “The purpose of a high school education is to give students the skills and knowledge needed to be successful in their adult lives. If a student hasn’t demonstrated the necessary subject-area proficiency, then they should not take part in the commencement ceremony.”

The bill, S-459, would require the board of education of a school district to prohibit a high school student from participating in commencement ceremonies with the student’s graduating class unless the student has completed all graduation requirements, including the successful completion of the High School Proficiency Assessment or the Alternative High School Assessment. The bill was amended in Committee to provide an exception for students who have been classified as eligible for special education programs and whose individualized education program prescribes continued special education beyond the fourth year of high school.

High school students in New Jersey must pass either the High School Proficiency Assessment of the Alternative High School Assessment as a condition of graduation, in order to measure whether they have gained the knowledge and skills identified in the core curriculum content standards. In the 2009 – 2010 academic year, the number of high school students in the State who failed to pass the Alternative High School Assessment significantly increased due to changes in the structure of the test. In that year, many school districts allowed high school students who did not pass the High School Proficiency Assessment or the Alternative High School Assessment to participate in commencement ceremonies with their graduating class.

“While I recognize that high school graduation is a milestone in many young adults’ lives, it becomes a meaningless symbol if we allow anyone and everyone to participate,” said Senator Turner. “Graduation is supposed to be a celebration of achievement, not a parade of mediocrity. By prohibiting students from taking part if they have not completed the requirements, we’re reserving commencement ceremonies for those students who have legitimately earned the right to walk with their classmates.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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