Wake-Up Call: Back-to-school special

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This morning, the 2009 class of North High School will rehearse for tomorrow's graduation ceremonies at the Colorado Convention Center. The entire graduating class.

That's because on Tuesday, Denver Public Schools put a halt to North principal Ed Salem's plan to prohibit about 50 out of 180 graduating seniors from participating because they hadn't met his 85 percent attendance goal for their senior year -- even though their grades and their attendance rates were good enough to earn them a DPS diploma. They just couldn't collect it at the ceremony.

I wrote about Salem's rule, and its sudden reversal, in this week's column, which inspired several comments supporting North's principal, and the need to have firm standards.

"Really, Westword?," one teacher wrote. "You should be patting Ed Salem on the back for finally standing up to the rampant apathy that has infected North's parents and students for years, not writing scathing and poorly researched attacks. It's not like he said they couldn't graduate, he just wanted to hold them accountable for their own poor choices, while celebrating the dedication of their more reliable peers. Isn't high school meant to prepare young people for college and/or a career?"

Well, while it's true that Salem's initial plan might have helped prepare these young people for the completely arbitrary, unjust situations that life often hands you, this wasn't the time or place to change the rules. These kids had done all that DPS asked, as the administration realized when it announced that they would be able to join in Saturday's ceremony.

A better time to consider changing the rules: As the Denver Post reports today, that's when the DPS will make recommendations for new graduation requirements and high school policies, to address ongoing concerns regarding achievement and the drop-out rate. And with any luck, those policies will apply to students before they earn the right to graduate with the rest of their class.

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