Recently, Washington State made the decision to allow districts the option of requiring culminating projects. To address this matter, Highline School District will hold a vote on Nov. 5 and allow board members to decide the fate of senior projects for future graduates.
Originally, the state set in place a series of requirements that high schoolers needed to complete in order to graduate. These necessities included a senior project, or culminating project, and community service hours to meet the state’s standards.
However, in a Washington State legislative meeting in April, it was decided that senior projects would be eliminated from the list of requirements, allowing each district to decide individually whether they would retain the requirement or not.
Although Highline has had since spring to handle this decision, they have been releasing conflicting and inconclusive information.
To make this decision, public and professional opinions have been collected, according to Chief Academic Officer of Highline School District Susanne Jerde, but have yet to be utilized in making a concrete decision.
“They have informal gatherings and mechanisms such as polls from the public, letters from parents, [etc.],” said Jerde. “In addition, we collect information and data from all our counselors and high schools, as well principals.”
With all this information gathered, the board has already began weighing their options based on the data, and members will vote on the 5th and notify the schools within the district. Until further notice, there is increasing confusion and anxiety over the projects.
Recently, Highline School District has also released a statement saying that they will still require current seniors to complete the project based upon the number of students already involved with their culminating projects.
As a representative of the district and this project, Jerde has addressed the topic in response to this vote, seemingly stating that the board has already decided that the senior project would remain for the class of 2015, but still leaving an open end.
“Of our ten schools, [seven] principals felt pretty strongly that they were going to keep the culminating [projects] regardless,” said Jerde. “Their request, after a lot of conversation, was that we not to remove it for 2014-15, but rather we spend time this winter going deeper in the conversation, making a decision, moving forward.”
On the contrary, the latest meeting’s notes that the district released seem to be semi-conclusive, or at working toward a decision–until they were removed from the site.
The notes directly addressed senior projects and seemed to imply that the board was already beginning to take the first steps to removing it as a requirement: the list of graduation requirements included senior projects crossed off.
“The majority of the principals are in favor of eliminating the requirements,” according to the official Oct. 22 school board meeting’s notes found on www.boarddocs.com, which contradicts their previous information.
With contradictory statements and documentations within the district, Highline has already removed the meeting notes concerning senior projects without any official reasoning for posting and then removing the information.
Even though the final decision for future seniors is unknown for the time being, RAHS teacher Dr. Michael Katims found personal intrigue in the matter due to previously being involved with the initial incorporation of senior project.
“I actually got my start in Washington Education by helping people implement the senior project, and I was a really strong believer in it,” said Dr. Katims. “I think it is a really good thing for kids.”
Even though some schools may not have access to the resources, RAHS has several attentive advisors who work with students to prepare for their senior projects. One of these advisors, Michelle Juarez, has seen all the benefits these projects have to offer if done correctly.
“A senior project has the potential to uncover hidden talents and interests,” said Juarez, “but unless students take it upon themselves to be responsible for their own learning, projects in themselves will not be successful.”
The district also acknowledges that senior projects can have benefits, but the the movement to reconsider culminating projects is fueled by the idea that those positives may be outweighed by limited resources. Due to the delay in this decision, many students have neglected to move past a project proposal.
“Considering that this is a time sensitive project,” said senior Andrew Calimlim, “I feel that the decision should’ve been decided over the summer, so that seniors don’t have to worry about investing too much time into getting their project approved and spend more time on applying for colleges.”