After the formal dance (complete with limousines), the elaborate class trip, and the catered parties, the students proudly cross the stage in their caps and gowns and shake hands with beaming school administrators. A typical rite of spring for high school graduates, right? Sure, except that this is a description of a ceremony for 8th graders. Across the country, reports the New York Times, 8th grade graduations are increasingly being treated with ever greater significance and leading some educators and public officials to ask whether all the pomp fits the circumstance.
In Arizona, legislators have gone so far as consider a bill to stop schools from giving out 8th grade certificates, worrying that the credential may lead some students to believe that 8th grade is the final academic goal. And no less a personage than Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has questioned the practice of lavish graduation ceremonies. “Now hold on a second—this is just eighth grade. So let’s not go over the top,” he said at a June 15 church appearance in Chicago. “Let’s not have a huge party. Let’s just give them a handshake. You’re supposed to graduate from eighth grade.”
Others, however, say 8th grade graduation is a noteworthy milestone for many students and that there’s little harm in making the occasion memorable. “At least we have parents celebrating their children’s educational achievement,” said education scholar Diane Ravitch. “It says, ‘There are good rewards to staying in school.’”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.