(Sept 30) State eliminates mandate for graduation projects

By Jacob Seibel, of The Morning Call 2:40 p.m. EDT, September 30, 2013

In the two decades since Pennsylvania began mandating graduation projects for high school students, those portfolios have run the gamut:

Some students have written and staged plays, launched websites or started recycling programs while their peers have scraped together last-minute term papers to meet the requirement and get their diplomas.

It was all part of then Gov. Tom Ridge’s plan to give students real-life learning experiences to better prepare them for college and the working world.

But now the mandate is about to be tossed in the educational dustbin. Over the next four years, the state will phase out the requirement as it adopts the Pennsylvania Core Standards.

The new standards, based on the national Common Core Standards, ask students to have a deeper analytical understanding of key concepts in subjects.

In addition, starting with the Class of 2017, high school students will be required to pass a series of Keystone exams — or comparable tests — based on the new standards in order to graduate.

When the state Board of Education formally adopted the standards Sept. 12, it deemed the graduation project unnecessary considering the rigor of the Keystones.

“It’s kind of a trade-off,” Tim Eller, spokesman for the state Department of Education, said.

Eller said ending the projects shouldn’t have adverse effects on what students need to learn. He said that’s because the new standards focus on developing an understanding of concepts that would have otherwise been learned by doing a graduation project.

Likewise, mandate-weary school districts aren’t bemoaning the end of the requirement and all the paperwork it carried.

“Was it necessary? No. Was it bad? No,” Rodney R. Troutman, assistant superintendent at Parkland School District, said of the graduation project requirement.

Troutman said he believes districts are capable of getting students to the level they need to be without state mandates.

Just because the state is eliminating the graduation project, he said, doesn’t mean hands-on experiences will be gone from the classroom as well.

Find the full article, here: State eliminates mandate for graduation projects Jacob Seibel, The Morning Call, 9/30/13

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