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Dropping senior projects a blunder

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A massive educational blunder will be made if the Placer Union High School (District) Board of Trustees votes to eliminate senior project as a graduation requirement (Journal, July 11). Senior project requires students to complete a minimum 15-hour project of their own choosing, write a research paper on a related topic, prepare a professional portfolio of work and give an oral presentation to a panel of adult judges from the community. Is that too much to ask of students after 12 years of education? The arguments opposed to senior project as proposed by district officials just don’t make sense. Argument No. 1 — “It’s not fulfilling its intended purpose for students,” and “It’s not enhancing student learning.” By choosing and completing a project, researching, writing, speaking and preparing a professional portfolio of work, students not only learn, but they demonstrate competency after 12 years of education and develop a habit for life-long learning. Argument No. 2 — “Senior projects are not student-centered.” Senior projects are definitely student-centered. Argument No. 3 — “Senior projects do not align with school goals.” In completing senior project students must exhibit knowledge, demonstrate understanding of facts and ideas, solve problems to new situations by applying their knowledge, analyze their results, compile information and evaluate the quality of their work. It is a sad school that does not recognize these critical thinking skills as essential goals of education. Argument No. 4 — The need to develop a new assessment “that showcases our students and is inclusive of our staff and community.” One of the biggest benefits of senior project is the involvement of the community in providing judges to read and evaluate student portfolios, and to listen to and judge speeches. Argument No. 5 — Eliminate senior project to “allow for research and development of an authentic assessment that is relevant” and “it’s not possible for district educators to develop a new program while trying to manage the old one.” Why is it so difficult to try and restructure the senior project while still trying to implement it? Argument No. 6 — “Students are going through the motions.” Students should choose a project that excites them. Argument No. 7 — There are “inconsistencies among the schools regarding senior project requirements,” and the “block schedule … contributed to inconsistencies in rigor.” Senior project as originally designed offer plenty of rigor for students. As far as the inconsistencies and the block schedule are concerned, these are district problems, which should be addressed by the district leadership. It should not mean the elimination of a program that is designed to provide a chance for students to show competency after 12 years of education. Robert Burge, Auburn