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EDITORIAL: Don’t punish students for graduation snafu

It should be encouraging to find that the Clark County School District has standards students must meet to graduate. But not in the case of hundreds of students caught in a years-old bureaucratic credit mistake.

The Nevada Department of Education recently announced graduation rates by district. The school district was quick to tout its slight increase. For the class of 2022, the graduation rate was 81.3 percent. That’s up from 80.9 percent the previous year.

“These results are a testament to the hard work of our teachers, support professionals and administrators throughout the pandemic to ensure our students received a high-quality education,” Superintendent Jesus Jara said.

If the subject weren’t so serious, the claim that students received a “high-quality education” during the pandemic would be laughable. It took the district months to provide every student with a laptop. Many students didn’t show up to virtual classes or didn’t engage even if they logged in. Almost 40 percent of students received an F grade in the spring 2021 semester.

But a lack of achievement rarely stops children from graduating. State lawmakers long ago dumped the high school proficiency exam in favor of four end-of-course exams. Those exams once counted for 20 percent of a student’s grade. This month, the State Board of Education reduced their weight to 5 percent of a student’s grade.

You get the idea. District and state officials have turned high school diplomas into little more than participation ribbons.

That’s the context surrounding the story of hundreds of local high school students who took a one-credit computer class while attending Leavitt Middle School with the belief it would fulfill the district’s computer literacy graduation requirement. But three or four years later, the district now says the class was worth only a half-credit. That leaves many students a half-credit short of meeting their graduation requirement. Their options include summer school, an online course or a semester class at their high school.

This is absurdity piled on top of absurdity. If students took this class in middle school, it suggests the requirement isn’t particularly strenuous to begin with. Where were the counselors who are paid to ensure kids stay on course to receive their diplomas? Why are the students learning about this years after they took the class? Finally, most kids can’t stay off their phones and electronic devices. Perhaps they would learn more reading and math if they were a little less computer literate.

The district should seek to impose and uphold high standards. But there are many more substantive areas that demand attention instead of punishing students in this instance. The district’s mistake shouldn’t keep these kids from graduating.

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