Port Angeles School District favors dropping senior project as graduation requirement

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles School District will remove a high school graduation requirement that has become a thorn in the side of the district and students alike as other new requirements continue to mount.

The senior culminating project, a state requirement that has been removed from the growing list of classes and exams that students must take and pass, required many hours of work by students and teachers, many of whom are already overscheduled with college-preparation course loads, board members said at the Port Angeles School Board meeting last week.

“Having put three kids through it in its various iterations, I would gladly drop it,” Board Member Pattiw Happe said at Thursday’s meeting.

The board directed Superintendent Marc Jackson to put the removal of the requirement on a future board agenda.

In the past five years, additional years of science, math, language/literature and social studies have been added to the number of classes every student must complete.

Port Angeles students must take more credits altogether — increased from 20 credits to 22.5 credits for the class of 2016, with a goal of future students being required to complete 24 credits.

The state Board of Education requirement plan is called “Core 24,” and includes more core academic classes and reduces the non-academic electives for a set of “career- and college-ready graduation requirements.”

Board members noted that many of the elements of the senior culminating project are still part of other classes.

The project includes volunteer hours, research and a presentation.

Initially, the project was attached to the school’s English department to administer, but it was moved to the U.S. history class in the 2013-14 school year so class of 2015 students would complete their projects as juniors to make sure they finished ahead of time.

The district already teaches too little in the way of social studies, and adding the senior project only reduced the hours students had to learn essential history and governmental concepts, board members said.

Juniors and seniors who attended Peninsula College as part of the Running Start program — in which students take college courses for high school and college credit — had to take additional classes to meet the requirements.

The constant changes and the project’s lack of fit into any existing program has made the requirement difficult to manage, and students who already volunteered hundreds of hours in the community had to add specific additional volunteer hours for the project, board members noted.

Students who wish to complete the project on their own time may continue to do so, and the district will look into a way for those students to earn a half-credit for their work, they said.

The repeal of the project as a requirement was the work of a Washington state high school student, Board Member Lonnie Linn noted.

“Her graduation project was to eliminate the graduation project,” Linn said.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 17. 2014 7:17PM
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