06/02/11 — Project plans: Graduation projects should have depth, demonstrate skill

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Project plans: Graduation projects should have depth, demonstrate skill

Goldsboro High School students, the community members and school district staff who have rallied to help them, should be proud.

They beat the deadline to get their graduation projects done and to allow them to get their diplomas during upcoming commencement services.

There was a lot of work to get done in a short time -- and they did it.

But it is not necessarily a good thing that they could accomplish such a significant endeavor in such a small amount of time -- not if it is supposed to mean something.

When legislators and bureaucrats want to show the public that they care about the education their state's children are receiving, they come up with ideas like end-of-grade tests and graduation projects.

The problem is, they sound good, but sometimes mean little.

A graduation project -- done right -- could be a good thing and a valuable teaching tool and goal for high school students.

And most teachers, administrators and community mentors would love to work with a young person who was willing to take on such an endeavor.

If any school district wants to use a measuring stick like a graduation project, it should require real planning, months of work and significant demonstration of accomplishment.

Look at it kind of like an Eagle Scout project. There is a reason they don't just hand out those awards to anyone who makes an application or completes a service project one afternoon. There are standards that have to be met.

Graduation projects could be used as incentive for students who want to add an extra spark to a college or vocational program application. There could even be a special designation at graduation for those who complete one -- a cord, a pin or some other honor.

And the best thing about this kind of program is that it could be useful to students at many levels.

A diesel mechanic or carpentry vocational student who can demonstrate proficiency at his craft could have a leg up on another person who is applying for a coveted spot in a training program, who is seeking financial help or who is competing for a job.

The same could be true for a physics major who shows that he or she can take the theory learned in class and apply it to a real world situation or an English major who can take grammar and composition instruction and produce a real life work product that could be published.

Projects like that could really give students a glimpse of not only why what they are learning is important and how it could be applied in the real world, but also a goal to strive for, a chance to prove that they have achieved something.

Goldsboro High students worked hard to accomplish their goals this month -- and their advisers said they did good work. They have reason to be proud.

But what we should be most proud of is that the freshman and sophomore classes at the school are already thinking about what they want to do for their senior projects.

Who knows. They might be some of the best in the county when their graduation days roll around.

And that is exactly what we want every high school senior in Wayne County to strive for.

Published in Editorials on June 2, 2011 11:04 AM