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Graduation elusive for some seniors

"It's senior year for some 1,367 Federal Way students. In five months many students hope to walk across a stage to receive their passport to a new life. While many students are busy narrowing down which colleges to attend or contemplating work or military service, about 360 of them won't see a diploma this spring.Each of the area's three high schools - Decatur, Federal Way and Thomas Jefferson - recently released data on students not on track to graduate. These students, about 28 percent district wide, are grade or credit deficient. About 171 of Decatur's seniors have missing credits, that's roughly about 36 percent of its senior class. The State Board of Education requires districts to maintain a minimum of 19 credits needed for graduation. Most districts statewide require 20 to 24 credits for a diploma.Tougher standards and an increase in credit requirements imposed by the district here four years ago might be key factors to the numbers. When this year's current group of seniors were eighth-graders, Federal Way school board members increased the number of credits needed to graduate from 22.5 to 23.5 with no credit given for any grade below a C-.Like Decatur, students at Jefferson and Federal Way are also dealing with seniors not diploma bound.About 146 of Federal Way's seniors are not on track to graduate. The school estimates about 305 of its students have correct credits. And at Thomas Jefferson, 67 out of 359 seniors may not walk with their class this year.Chris Moody, 18, a Jefferson senior doesn't think the district or its schools are requiring too much of students.It's not hard to pass every class, he said, it's not like high school got hard.Moreover, Moody, who plans to go on a church mission after high school, said he doesn't hear many students lament graduation requirements. I don't think there's anything too difficult about them, he said. A lot of the kids that don't pass a lot of their classes don't like them because they can't pass with Ds.Reasons for delayed graduation are varied. After school jobs, family problems, behavioral, academic and learning problems can hamper a student's road to success, said Decatur Principal Gerald Millett.Federal Way High School Mike St. Louis agrees.There are probably as many reasons as there are kids, he said. But any time you try to raise standards it's going to take awhile to get people there.St. Louis said it's up to schools and the students themselves to help achieve graduation goals.Jefferson senior Krista Surber, 18, thinks it's not hard to graduate from the Federal Way school district.If you just apply yourself you wouldn't have that problem, she said. Surber, who will attend Western Washington University in the fall as a pre-med student, said many students are stressed trying to keep their grades maintained before graduation. But the graduation requirements, she said, are not unreasonable.Each of Federal Way's high schools are taking a pro-active approach in warning students of possible graduation problems, the district said. To cope with the numbers of students behind in classes or credits, the schools give pupils special opportunity to catch up.Zero-hour and seventh-hour classes in which students can take courses they have previously failed or missed. Other options include summer school, Internet Academy classes, community college courses, or make-up courses through the district's Occupational Skills Center. "

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