‘‘You Got Your High School Diploma?’’

Elizabeth Weil:

Five Keys’ official policy is to try to slow students down. “We’ve had folks over the years say we need to get people high school diplomas because that’s their ticket for a job and they can’t spend a lot of time with us,” Steve Good said. “That’s great, but the high school diploma still needs to mean something. It needs to be a benchmark for something — minimum qualifications and skill set. If we’re graduating people who can’t read and aren’t numerate, what’s the point? We’re no better than a diploma mill.” To protect against this, Five Keys students must perform at a seventh- to ninth-grade level, depending on the class, before they can take the core curriculum required to graduate. Five Keys also tries to steer students away from using the AB-167/216 exception if they’re making normal progress.

“I don’t want him thinking he needs five credits and he needs 30 credits,” John said to Shelia, hoping to manage Raymon’s expectations. “I want him thinking he needs 30 credits and then needs five.”

Raymon strutted down the bus’s center aisle, pretending that he was walking across a stage, collecting a diploma.

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”