Senior projects could be cut

Board to take a vote Tuesday
By: Joyia Emard Gold Country News Service
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High school district administrators are asking to eliminate senior projects as a graduation requirement and trustees are expected to make a decision Tuesday. According to Jeff Tooker, assistant superintendent of the Placer Union High School District, principals and assistant principals — 30 in all — from Del Oro, Placer, Colfax, Foresthill, Chana and Maidu High Schools attended an annual administrative summit in June and the majority consensus was that senior projects should not be a graduation requirement. “Comments that were made at the summit,” Tooker said, “include, ‘We have moved beyond the senior project and it is not fulfilling its intended purpose for students. It’s not enhancing student learning’ and ‘It feels like students are going through the motions.’” Tooker said, on behalf of district administration, he recommended to the board of trustees at their June 28 meeting that the senior project graduation requirement be eliminated for the upcoming school year to “allow for the research and development of an authentic assessment that is relevant, showcases our students and is inclusive of our staff and community.” Tooker said it is not possible for district educators to develop a new program while trying to manage the old one. “We need to clear space to allow for thoughtful reflections and the growth of new innovations. We’ve been doing senior projects for 20 years,” Tooker said. During the meeting, Peter Efstathiu, Placer High School principal, said he supported the senior project requirement, but is “not able to defend it anymore.” He said it would be better to let the program continue another year, especially since his English department has integrated the senior project into their curriculum. Superintendent Dave Horsey said there are inconsistencies among the schools regarding senior project requirements and many students are not learning from the program. He said managing the projects was proving difficult for staff as funding has been cut, but expectations have not. Horsey also said it is too difficult to try and restructure the senior project while still trying to implement it. School staff input was varied at the meeting. Del Oro science teacher Fred Zimmerman said the block schedule at Del Oro contributed to inconsistencies in rigor. Kathy Myers, district coordinator of curriculum and instruction, said with new curriculum for seniors there may not be a need for senior projects. Bridget Farren, Del Oro assistant principal, said senior projects are not student centered and do not align with school goals. Parents also had mixed responses when asked if senior projects should be discontinued. Keri Burri is the parent of an incoming Del Oro senior and said the senior project adds stress to an already busy senior year. “Senior year is busy enough with college planning, activities and demanding classes. I’d prefer a requirement for volunteer hours, then seniors can choose what is important to them to devote their time to,” Burri said. Sharon Evans is the parent of five Del Oro graduates, who have all completed senior projects, and thinks they should be continued. “I think it’s a great learning experience. It’s not as big of a stretch as it used to be with the change in requirements, but it allows students to dive into something that’s more than just bookwork,” Evans said. The future of senior projects is expected to be voted on at the high school district board of trustees meeting at 5 p.m., Tuesday, July 12, at the district board room at 13000 New Airport Road, in Auburn. For more information, call (530) 886-4405.