But for 20 of those students, the covers were empty.
Those 20 students have not yet met the Rhode Island Department of Education’s graduation requirements, namely scoring proficient on the New England Common Assessment Program test, according to Superintendent Melinda Thies. While the students did not get their diplomas, they were allowed to walk the stage with their classmates in anticipation of finishing their requirements this summer.
“They are our August grads,” Ms. Thies said. “They had not quite made the level of state proficiency. We’re providing an opportunity for support, and they’ll take the assessment again in August.”
The number is down significantly from the beginning of the school year, when 80 students had yet to meet NECAP requirements after having taken the test in spring of their junior year. That number was cut in half to about 40 after the test was administered in October 2013, and cut in half again after a third round of testing in March.
Some of those students have not met the requirements because they did not take the test, which is “designed to measure student performance on grade level expectations and grade span expectations in reading, writing, mathematics and science,” according to RIDE’s website.
The state offers opportunities for waivers to students who have not been deemed proficient. For example, if a student is accepted to a two- or four-year college despite a less than proficient score, he or she can receive a waiver. Students can also be granted a waiver if they sit for the NECAP at least twice and prove they have made every attempt to obtain proficiency. That may include attending NECAP classes the school offers prior to taking the test.
Not all students took advantage of that instruction, or an alternative test the district offered — the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, which the state recognizes as a valid alternative to the NECAP.
Thies said she expects the remaining 20 students will attend the district’s “summer academy” and pass the test.
“There is high confidence. The expectation is they will pass,” Ms. Thies said in explaining why the students were able to walk on Saturday. “An important piece was to allow them to take part in the ceremony. We’re not here to punish. We’re here to support and provide an incentive.”