There’s talk about getting rid of 8th grade graduation in Chicago. In many ways graduations fly in the face of high expectations. After all, if we expect children to graduate, then why the pomp and circumstance? Why the ceremony? What’s the big deal; isn’t graduation the expectation and not the exception? I felt this way throughout my academic and teaching career. But there are good reasons to rethink this stance.
Most parents love graduation ceremonies. In fact, it may be the only time a parent makes special arrangements to get involved in their child’s education. Graduation trumps all other school activities when it comes to parental involvement; even parent-teacher night.
Perhaps we need celebrations honoring the successful completion of each grade. Viewed this way education is similar to a video game. Each grade is a level. Each level is more challenging than the one preceding it. Each level culminates in an award. It’s a win-win: kids love video games and parents love ceremonies.
Make them biannual events. When students demonstrate mastery of a grade level allow them to move on. Give them badges; have pinning ceremonies; get the parents into the school. Talk to the parents at these events. Work the parents. Build the community that education professors and pundits love to talk about.
Some will say, “What about the student who fails?” The answer is evident. The ceremonies are for the students who are successful; therein lays there value. It is time to do away with graduations and replace them with regular academic ceremonies that honor kids and parents for making it to the next level. Only then will education become an expectation and not an exception.