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Wake-Up Call: North High gets a good grade

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Give North High School extra credit for its graduation rate, which increased 12.1 percent in 2009 -- compared to the overall Denver Public Schools increase of 3.2 percent, up to a sad 52.7 percent of high school students graduating on time this past year.

I came down hard on Ed Salem, North's principal, last spring, when he wouldn't let graduating seniors participate in graduation ceremonies -- not because they'd failed to meet the Denver Public Schools requirements, but because they'd failed to meet some North standard.

Of those 189 kids who would officially graduate, only 133 would be allowed to participate in the ceremony, according to a list posted at North the week before the graduation ceremonies; many of them had failed to meet Salem's stipulation that they have an 85 percent attendance level. "These kids are struggling with a lot of issues," said one mother whose son was on the no-go list. "And they're stripping them of a once-in-a-lifetime privilege. They should be thankful for the seniors you have in that school."

After I contacted DPS, North's prohibition was reversed fast -- fast enough for everyone who'd met the DPS graduation standards to participate in the ceremony. Some of them were the very first in their families to graduate any high school.

But while North got a failing grade for that ceremony snafu, its graduation rate -- announced yesterday by DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg at North -- shows that the school is clearly doing many, many things right.

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