When Clover Park High School seniors don caps and gowns Monday, at least one member of the Class of 2013 will be missing.
Ana Coronado thought she’d be at the Tacoma Dome, walking in procession with her Lakewood classmates. Instead, she’ll be sidelined because of a new state graduation requirement.
Members of the Class of 2013 in Washington’s public schools are the first who must pass three state tests to graduate: reading, writing and, new for this year’s graduates, math.
Ana has all the credits she needs for graduation, she says. She said she has completed her senior project, also a graduation requirement. All she’s missing is a passing grade on the state math test.
“I have every single thing except that test,” she said. “My lifelong dream is to walk across the stage and receive my diploma.”
But it looks as if it will have to be a dream deferred. After Ana failed the state math test once, she tried again this month. In fact, she recently took two state tests, one that focuses primarily on algebra and another that emphasizes geometry, in hopes of passing at least one.
But the results won’t be back in time for graduation, so school officials have told Ana that under district rules she can’t participate in Monday’s ceremonies. If she passes the test, she’ll receive a belated diploma.
Christine Lister, the Lakewood mom who welcomed Ana into her home like a daughter several months ago, thinks that’s a shame.
“Ana has moved around from home to home over the past few years and has worked so hard to earn her high school diploma,” Lister said.
Ana is friends with Lister’s daughter, Chelsea Dingman. Lister said Ana’s family isn’t involved in her education, and Lister only recently was able to sign on with the school as Ana’s educational contact. Both she and Ana were shocked to learn this month that she wouldn’t be able to participate in graduation.
There are alternatives for students who can’t pass the state test. They can earn a passing grade on a college-entrance exam, but Ana missed by one point on the ACT. Or they can submit what’s known as a collection of evidence (COE) that shows they have mastered high school math concepts. The COE is an evaluation of samples based on classroom work, prepared by the student with instructional support from a teacher.
At Clover Park, students can enroll in a special class to help them complete the COE. Ana says she asked in September to enroll. She had friends in the class, including Chelsea, and she thought she qualified to enroll. But she says her counselor steered her instead to another algebra class.
Clover Park School District spokeswoman Kim Prentice said the district can’t comment on a specific student’s situation.
“Everyone across the district wants our students to graduate and be successful,” Prentice said. “This is a very unfortunate situation. Our school board and its policies say that all students need to meet all requirements in order to graduate.”
Prentice said Friday that the district was still calculating the number of other students in the same or similar circumstances as Ana. Earlier this year, an estimated 8,000 seniors statewide had passed reading and writing, but not math. In April, Tacoma Public Schools estimated that 221 seniors had not yet met all state standards, but said many were waiting to hear whether they had passed a state makeup test.
In the past, students who had passed state reading and writing tests but failed the math test were allowed to graduate, as long as they kept taking and passing math classes through senior year. The rule changed with the Class of 2013.
Also in the past, students needed to bomb the state test twice before submitting a collection of evidence. But the rule was altered solely for this year’s test because of the timing of the rule change. The state education website states that, for this year’s seniors only, students may submit a COE even if they’ve failed the test only once.
Pam Bridges, a Lakewood education consultant, has been talking to district and state educators about Ana’s case. Bridges, a former state education department employee, is president of the Washington Alliance of Black School Educators.
She acknowledges that keeping up with rule changes is challenging, even for professional educators. And she said she’s not surprised that a student was also confused, especially one who until recently lacked parental support.
Bridges sees Ana’s situation as an example of what’s known as the “opportunity gap.” Too often, Bridges said, “students of low socioeconomic backgrounds, or students of color, they are the ones who are caught in this troublesome place.”
She believes Ana might have been unfairly denied an opportunity to complete a collection of evidence.
Prentice said Clover Park students have “many opportunities to meet the requirements. As they get closer to the end of their high school experience, the school district goes over and above (what’s required) to create and develop additional opportunities for students to meet the high school graduation requirements.”
Even if Ana is denied the pomp and circumstance of Monday’s graduation procession, she continues to dream. She wants to enroll in community college to study business and cosmetology, in hopes of opening a salon. Some day, she would like to enroll in nursing school.
Bridges said Ana has learned a lot about advocating for herself.
“She’s not giving up,” Bridges said. “Her work ethic is pretty commendable.”
Ana talked first to school officials and contacted school board members over the weekend. But as of Sunday afternoon, she hadn’t heard good news.
She acknowledged that she hasn’t been an “A” student, and said family issues helped put her behind. But she said she entered her senior year determined to make it to graduation.
“To walk with my peers, who literally have been my family, would mean so much to me.”Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635