05/11/09 — High school graduation projects still a go

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High school graduation projects still a go

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 11, 2009 1:46 PM

While the state Board of Education may have put a hold on its requirement for high school students to complete a graduation project before receiving their diploma, it remains a requirement for graduation in Wayne County, officials said.

At the April meeting of the county Board of Education, the graduation project was approved as an update to Policy 3460, spelling out requirements for high school students.

Earlier this year, the state announced its decision to "just hold off for a year," said Hope Meyerhoeffer, director of ESL visual arts/English and language arts and effective schools. Efforts in Wayne County, though, will continue, she said.

"We don't want to stop because it wouldn't be good after we have invested all the time in it," explained Dean Sauls, director of secondary education for the Wayne school system.

The graduation project has been part of the high school requirements for graduation since being introduced to the freshman class in 2006, Sauls said.

"We just don't see putting it on hold," he said.

Letters were sent out to parents and graduation project coordinators at each high school last week, itemizing the requirements, which include a review process, an 8-10-page research paper on an approved topic, a product related to the paper, a portfolio reflecting the graduation project process and a presentation to a panel of community and faculty members.

The decision to continue without interruption is an individual one, the officials said.

In recent months, meetings were held with area high school principals to discuss the project's future. All were in agreement, Sauls said, and it was then presented to the school board for consideration.

"You have got people, probably, that don't want to do this -- some counties that don't -- but it is one of the graduation requirements for Wayne County Public Schools under the high school exit standards," Sauls said.

By this point, students involved in their respective projects have put in too much work to simply stop now, the administrators said. Without further direction from the state -- or an idea whether it will resume later or be completely dropped -- it seemed wise to follow through with what had been started.

"Everybody that surrounds Wayne -- except Duplin -- is continuing," Sauls said.

"Most of us have decided, you can't stop in midstream, especially after a lot of kids have put a lot of work into it," added Mrs. Meyerhoeffer. "And this is only a pass/fail -- they're not going to be graded 90, 80, 70, no numerical grades, (so) most likely if any student puts anything into it, the group that's listening to them is going to give them a passing grade."

The biggest concern locally has been extenuating circumstances.

"We have some very smart students that will graduate mid-year so they're going to have to do a presentation that fall," Sauls said. "Also, transfers from the military. We have got to decide. There will be a one-on-one case for that."

"If a military student or anybody else comes in the second semester of their senior year, and they have never participated in the graduation project, they will be excused," Mrs. Meyerhoeffer said. That especially applies to students transferring to the district from an area where there is no graduation project, she noted.

While the requirements for the project may be stringent, covering a different aspect each year from freshman to senior years, ultimately students have a say in the topic or project area.

"They get to pick. You do not establish a subject for them," Sauls said. "We ask them in 9th grade what they would like to do.

"We have seen (a student) put an engine together, one told about the process of making a dress and then wore it the day of the presentation, another did a project on skateboarding," he said.

The graduation project applies to all courses of study at the high school level -- whether the student is in career preparation, college technical or college university preparation.