The Transylvania Times -

By John Lanier

Senior Projects To Be Replaced


Last updated 4/10/2019 at 4:16pm

Rosman High School Assistant Principal Patrick Chapman and Brevard High School Assistant Principal Missy Ellenberger presented information on district graduation projects to the Transylvania County Board of Education Monday evening.

Beginning with the graduating class of 2021, students will have to complete a graduation portfolio with five components over a four-year period. The graduation project would replace the current senior project.

Chapman said there were two major goals in shifting to the graduation project. One is to refine the project to include career and college readiness, improve communication skills and infuse digital learning. The other goal is to shift the responsibility from senior English teachers to the entire faculty and have a project that reflects four years of growth, not one semester.

Chapman said the change would free senior English teachers to spend more time working with students on writing and British literature, and take some of the stress off seniors who are busy applying to colleges.

There will be five components to the project: research paper, project proposal, the project itself, presentation of the project and a graduation portfolio.

During their freshmen year, students will begin their graduation portfolio and learn about the project’s components. In their sophomore year, they will explore options for their project and research paper.

In their junior year, students will complete their project proposal, defend their proposal to a panel and complete their research paper. The research paper would be graded solely by the student’s English teacher.

During their senior year, students will complete their project, present their project to a panel and submit a digital portfolio of their project.

The panel to which the project would be presented would consist of teachers, administrators, community members and younger students. Chapman said one advantage of having younger students on the panel is that they would get to see how a future component of the projects is handled.

Board member Marty Griffin asked how students on the panel would be selected?

Chapman said those students could be a mixture of volunteers and ones suggested by teachers. Chapman said by extending the project, students will have more flexibility as to when they can make their presentations.

“We tried to leave this as flexible as possible,” said Chapman.

Ellenberger said some students might want to work on their projects over the summer.

“There’s nothing holding a student back from jumping on it early,” said Ellenberger.

Superintendent Jeff McDaris asked what would happen with students who move to the county and enter the school system during their junior year.

“They would just pick up on the check list from that point forward,” said Chapman.

Vice Chair Ron Kiviniemi asked what would happen with rising seniors transferring into the school system. Ellenberger said they would have to write a paper, but their situations would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Ellenberger said the components would be evaluated on a four-point rubric with an evaluation of either mastery, proficiency, developing or incomplete. At a minimum, students must demonstrate pro-ficiency in each component prior to graduation.

“We’re looking for proficiency from each individual student,” said Ellenberger.

Ellenberger also said students will have teachers who will monitor their progress and each school will have a graduation project coordinator. Meredith Licht will fulfill the latter role at Brevard High while Jake Raines will fulfill that role at Rosman High.

Ellenberger said a big challenge students have had with their senior projects is finding a mentor. With the graduation project, mentors still have to be approved, but mentors do not have to be residents of Transylvania County and students no longer have to meet face-to-face with their mentors for a specified amount of time. Students would have to meet three times with their mentors, but that could be by phone, email or teleconference.

“I’m sure there will have to be some tweaks as we go through this,” said Ellenberger of implementing the graduation projects.

Board member Alice Wellborn said she likes every teacher being involved and that students would start the process earlier.

She said the current senior project is a real challenge for students who take AP English and have to complete their entire project in one semester. Ellenberger said graduation projects would meet special needs students at their level and focus on growth. Chapman said any accommodations in a students’ IEP (individualized education plan) could be incorporated in the project. Licht said the flexible timelines also would benefit special needs students.

Assistant Superintendent Brian Weaver said a benefit of the graduation project is that it will give students a chance to practice their presentation and interview skills in their junior year, prior to being interviewed by colleges or scholarship committees in their senior year. Board Chair Tawny McCoy agreed that having the interview experience prior to being a senior would be beneficial for students.

More from the board meeting is on page 12B.


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