Student with 4.95 GPA Denied High School Diploma Will Now Get High School Diploma

BIG UPDATE: Due to the efforts of Washoe County School Board President Ken Grein, Michael Marshall will receive his high school diploma on November 27th

What do the following have in common?

A student with a 4.95 GPA

A high school dropout

A college freshman at Georgia Tech

Answer: They all describe the same person, 17 year old Michael Marshall of Reno, Nevada. 

When I read this story in the Reno Gazette-Journal by Education Beat reporter Siobhan McAndrew on Sunday, September 16, I had to do a double-take, especially since graduation rates in the school district involved, Washoe County, dropped since last year. While the high school where Marshall dropped out of saw an increase in their graduation rate from 59% to 75%, I would think that in today’s statistic-based educational environment creating a negative statistic would not be a good thing. In this case, one size definitely does not fit all, and apparently the school district is not thinking clearly. What occurred should be shouted to the world as a highly positive example. Instead, the Washoe County School District is satisfied with having another dropout.

Well, not exactly. Using semantics, the district is calling Michael Marshall a transfer student. That removes him as a statistical dropout, but still denies him a high school diploma.

Marshall did transfer at the end of his junior year. With a 4.95 grade point average, 24 earned credits, it only takes 22.5 credits at the end of the senior year to graduate, two years of Latin, three years of Spanish, and advanced English and Math classes that were part of the International Baccalaureate Program, Michael Marshall transferred to Georgia Institute of Technology as a freshman majoring in Aerospace Engineering. He is one of only three freshmen out of approximately 2,600 admitted not completing their senior year of high school.

Like most school districts, Washoe County has minimum graduation requirements. These requirements are put in place to meet federal standards and ensure students don’t slip through the system. According to Washoe County School District officials, Marshall did not fulfill the English and Physical Education requirements. Wait. Marshall passed AP English courses. To do that, he never took a lower level English class. As in Monopoly, that is a “don’t pass go and don’t collect $200.” When his mother asked if freshman English at Georgia Tech could satisfy this requirement, she was told no. How about Physical Education? This is so important that the district is recommending Marshall take an online bowling class to satisfy the requirement. So if you don’t have to become physically active, why bother?  But is Michael Marshall physically fit? A requirement to receive a private pilot license is a physical. When Michael Marshall turned 17 in May, he gave himself a present of his single-engine private pilot license.

Michael Marshall of Reno, Nevada is a high school dropout. He will never receive his high school diploma or GED Certificate. When you consider he plans on getting a PhD, I don’t think that really matters. 

What does matter though is that we are seeing another clear example of why federal standards and a one size fit all approach does not make sense.