Eighth-grade students in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District will no longer have a high school-style graduation ceremony, district officials announced Tuesday.
Sharon McHolland, assistant superintendent for educational services, told the Board of Trustees that the five junior high and middle schools would replace the formal ceremonies at Bradford Stadium with awards and recognition ceremonies, to take place at each school.
The change is being made for several reasons, including making middle school and junior high less like high school and to emphasize the importance of continuing on to high school, McHolland said.
“We think (an awards ceremony) is a more appropriate level of transition to high school,” McHolland said. “We want to place more of an emphasis on the high school graduation experience.”
Downplaying the end of the two-year or three-year middle school period is one step in the district’s process of implementing the middle school philosophy, adopted four years ago.
Middle schools are less like high schools than traditional junior high schools, with afternoon dances instead of evening dances and intramural sports instead of interscholastic sports.
Some districts are also changing the elementary school and middle school configuration so that sixth grade, traditionally the end of elementary school, is now part of middle school. Placentia Yorba Linda has a mix of both two-year and three-year configurations, but the graduation policy will be implemented at all middle schools and junior highs.
“Eighth-grade graduation was started when a lot of students did not go on to high school,” McHolland said. “We want to encourage the high school experience, and emphasize that eighth grade is not the end of their education.”
According to McHolland, eighth-graders said they would not miss the graduation ceremony as long as they could still have the evening dance that followed it, which the district agreed to keep.