Friday, May 30, 2008

Senior Project Mayhem

In Washington, seniors are expected to produce a senior project in order to graduate. The specifics are up to the individual district, but it basically is supposed to be a project that allows them to use the knowledge and skills they gained in school to produce something useful. I have heard of kids designing and producing video games, kids that learn a new language, or write a big research paper, among other things. My district has the kids make a portfolio of "best works," their best work they've done over the last 4 years, and then do a presentation to teachers and community members. I really, really dislike this practice for several reasons. First and foremost, they are forcing the majority of the senior class to perform to the lowest common denominator, to the standard that only the laziest aspire to. True, requiring a project where they use the skills they acquired in high school would result in a lower graduation rate at first, but a project like that is something that would actually be useful. A portfolio that is essentially a "refrigerator door" of all the good grades they got is neither useful nor necessary. No college will care about any item in there except their transcript, and they are not creating something that will be of any use to them later in life. In addition, the differing requirements for Special Education and ELL students are not only not addressed, they are completely ignored - which I'm pretty sure is illegal. Another reason that I was so maddened by this process this morning was the sheer volume of useless paperwork that is expected to be generated by each student. The freshmen in my advisory are working on their part of this project and they have about 12 different items in there already. Each of those items has to have a 150 word reflection on it, even things like their transcript. What exactly are you supposed to say about a transcript? Whatever. I will support it because it is the graduation standard in my district, but I don't have to be happy about it. Let's put it this way. I understand that this is the easiest solution for the problem of what project to do, but it is nonetheless the lowest common denominator in a district that is already struggling with excellence.

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