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The Texas high school that delayed graduation says 100% of seniors are ready to walk

Marlin High School is now ready to hold its graduation, after members of its senior class worked to fulfill requirements for a diploma.
Google Maps/Screenshot by NPR
Marlin High School is now ready to hold its graduation, after members of its senior class worked to fulfill requirements for a diploma.

It was just weeks ago that Marlin High School in Texas abruptly postponed its graduation ceremony, saying only a handful of its seniors had met requirements to get their diploma.

The students' plight made headlines, but they worked with school staff to make up the credits and grades they needed. And it paid off: In an update, school officials say that because of the seniors' hard work, all of them will graduate later this month.

"We are excited to report that as of Thursday June 8, 38 out of 38 seniors have met all requirements for graduation as outlined by the Texas Education Agency," Marlin ISD Superintendent Darryl Henson told NPR.

"It's a testament of the resiliency that our students, teachers, and families have demonstrated over the past two weeks," Henson added.

"Now let's see if this goes viral!" he said in a celebratory tweet, the month after his school's struggles drew wide interest.

"Graduation delayed, but not denied"

The new graduation date is June 22.

"It is graduation delayed, but not denied," Henson told TV station KWTX. "I have a sheer obligation of ensuring completion. It's not about trying to celebrate before we finish. Let's cross the finish line and then we can all celebrate together."

The 38 graduates include 33 students in the school's traditional program and another five in its alternative education program.

The good news is a turnaround from last month, when a school district audit found that only five seniors had met the requirements to get a diploma. Many students and their families said they were surprised to learn they had fallen short of the state's 90% attendance mandate or failed to complete courses, while others missed tests and assessments.

"It's emotional," one parent said at a meeting with administrators held in the school's auditorium. "They get their hopes up: 'I'm graduating next week! I'm at Six Flags!'" she added, referring to a senior trip.

The Marlin school district is on the rebound, official says

As he announced the students' progress, Henson also said that he will be taking on the role of principal at the high school, in addition to his district duties.

Marlin is a small town southeast of Waco, near the Brazos River. The most recent Texas Schools report card assigned Marlin High School a "B" rating— an assessment based on how it performs compared to other schools with student populations in similar economic conditions. The report said nearly 99% of Marlin High's 229 listed students are economically disadvantaged.

"Students in Marlin ISD will be held to the same high standard as any other student in Texas," Henson said at last month's meeting with parents.

Henson has stressed the importance of supporting all of the school's students, and its teachers, even as he acknowledged the challenges his district faces. Marlin ISD is in the process of emerging from a decade of entrenched problems, including losing its accreditation at one point.

"We will be confident educators in this district," Henson said, "because we have to come from so far behind."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.