Academic journal article High School Journal

Top 10 Ways for a Smooth Graduation Project Implementation

Academic journal article High School Journal

Top 10 Ways for a Smooth Graduation Project Implementation

Article excerpt

The Graduation Project is a new high school exit project required by the state of North Carolina beginning with the Class of 2010. After 18 months of comprehensive Graduation Project planning in Cabarrus County, N.C. a suburban district with approximately 27,000 students, this district can offer specific implementation guidelines that will assist other school districts. There are 10 ways, based on recent implementation experience, that are suggested to make the process simpler and easier for districts that are beginning the process.


The Graduation Project is a new high school exit standard required by the state of North Carolina beginning with the Class of 2010. Many school districts across the nation have required some form of a capstone or graduation project for several years. The graduation project or senior project (as some states and districts call it) is a culminating requirement for high school graduation with four components: a paper, a portfolio, a product, and a presentation. Students will complete successfully a 7-10 page research paper on a topic of their choice and will have to define and demonstrate a use of this topic within the community. Throughout high school, students will work with a community mentor to complete face-to-face time with an "expert" in their chosen topic. Portfolios will consist of documentation of working on a topic and working with a mentor in the community. All of the work they have written and performed will culminate with a 7-10 minute presentation of their research and experience.

Many educators and community stakeholders believe the Graduation Project to be an ambitious state requirement for North Carolina but one with many benefits and dividends for students. Even though students and parents are reluctant at first in pilot projects, the vast majority of high school graduates stated it was beneficial to their learning. "In 1999, 75% of students agreed and/or strongly agreed that their writing, research, speaking, planning, and time management skills had improved as a result of Senior Project[c] participation" (Senior Project, 2). Many educators and researchers believe "critical thinking, goal setting, problem solving, and collaborative skills all come into play in PBL" (Page, 43). Regina Toolin defines the goal of project based learning as "to investigate real world, standards-based problems that are of interest, relevance, value, and worth to students and teachers over a sustained period of time" (179-180). Many employers industry-wide assert that students lack the ability to apply knowledge in a workplace environment. The impetus behind the Graduation Project is to use project based learning to address some of these deficiencies. Many employers have cited a need for students to investigate "real world problems" (Fletcher 27).

With this requirement looming in the background for the past several years, Cabarrus County Schools made the decision to go ahead and implement the Graduation Project for the class of 2008. While not every state has required the Graduation Project for all students, many school districts perceive these projects as very beneficial to students and are enacting them without a mandate. Hopefully, this will serve as a guide for other districts to follow, assisting the leadership in a smooth implementation. Each step of the process is outlined with practical advice for beginning the undertaking in other districts.

1. Attend a Senior Project[c] Institute. Each year, The Senior Project[c] hosts several national Institutes. They are "how-to" workshops encompassing all of the elements that it takes to make the Graduation Project a successful event. In 2008, the Institute will be in Washington D.C. In North Carolina in 2005, educators were fortunate that the state paid for some scholarships for a Senior Project Institute in Asheville, North Carolina. Cabarrus County Schools sent a team of administrators and counselors to attend and collect valuable data to implement the new state requirement. …

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