Graduation - More Than Simply Moving Up


Graduation ceremonies are significant milestones in a student's life and they are deeply rooted in tradition. They serve as a formal recognition of academic achievements and mark the transition from one educational stage to another. High school is considered a crucial phase in a student's academic journey. Graduation typically occurs after completing 12th grade because it signifies the completion of a high school education and prepares students for higher education or entering the workforce.

The Oxford Dictionary defines graduation as "the act of successfully completing a college or university degree, or getting a high school diploma." By this definition, the first true graduation that a child encounters comes at the conclusion of their compulsory education. However, every year some parents question why Clifton does not have graduation ceremonies for eighth graders, who are completing their middle school years and heading off to high school. Others look for graduations from elementary school and even kindergarten and are disappointed to find none.

Some Clifton parents, like Alexandra Fritz-Abell, see the push for multiple graduations as more parent-motivated than something students necessarily desire. “Most of the kids that [my daughter] talks to don’t care that there isn’t a ‘graduation’ since there are so many other activities. They are glad they get to spend time with their friends doing other things and they think the ‘graduation’ isn’t needed.”

Stacey Boggs, a Florida parent, agrees. “I think the ‘graduations’ have gotten ridiculous. Pre-K, Kindergarten, 5th grade, 8th grade. I think some exec at a company that sells photos and caps/gowns dreamed this up to get more money from parents. I can get behind ‘promotion’ or ‘move-up’ ceremonies. Or maybe a ‘goodbye’ from that school. But calling every time you move up a school a ‘graduation’ is excessive and takes away from the specialness of the real one.”

Mari Fontanez, another Clifton parent, feels differently. “I wish we had it in town,” she said. “We do it for all of Pre-K, Kindergarten…why not 8th?” She said that caps and gowns were not necessary but that she’d like to see some sort of official ceremony for the conclusion of the often-challenging middle school years.

Diane Ravitch, noted education scholar, sees the positive in acknowledging the transition from middle to high school. “I don’t think anyone should say, ‘Hey, it’s only eighth grade.’ Lots of parents celebrate their kids’ accomplishments and we don’t say, ‘Hey, it’s only Little League.’ At least we have parents celebrating their children’s educational achievement. It says, ‘There are good rewards to staying in school.’”

Other educators, like Heidi Smith, are concerned by the push to mark every milestone with the same grand ceremony that traditionally marks the completion of high school. “As an educator and parent, graduations are being overdone! There is a graduation for everything now: [Pre-K], K, etc. In my opinion, it diminishes the significance and specialness of the high school graduation.”

Superintendent Dr. Danny Robertozzi clarified how Clifton handles this, saying, “12th grade is the only true graduation. Historically in Clifton, at least as far as I've learned from others who have been here a lot longer than me, there have not been 8th-grade graduations.” He theorized that this may go back to 1963 when CHS was built and 9th graders moved from the “Junior High Schools” to high school.

In Clifton, although there are no other graduation ceremonies outside of the high school’s, there are plenty of special events and ceremonies for other significant milestones as students move through the school district:

Eighth graders are treated to many special events and activities:

The Farewell Dance
8th-grade class breakfast
Who's Who/Slideshow Assembly
Awards Assembly
Yearbook signing

They also have team trips and team picnics near the end of the school year, marking the transition from middle to high school with time to relax and socialize with their classmates.

Fifth graders, who are preparing to leave elementary school and head off to either Woodrow Wilson or Christopher Columbus Middle School, enjoy formal "Moving-Up” ceremonies which parents are invited to attend. They also have end-of-year parties and a special field trip. Even kindergartners, who are just beginning their scholastic journey, have a special End-of-Year Celebration to mark the conclusion of this first important year.

Dr. Robertozzi said that these ending traditions were not always consistent across the district’s many schools but since coming on board as Superintendent, “I have tried to make sure that students get the same experience regardless of the school they attend.”


If you'd like to send a shout-out to your own graduating senior, see THIS STORY for instructions. The graduation story will post on or just before the big day. The deadline for submissions is Tuesday, June 20th.

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