In 2017, Connecticut created a new graduation requirement that will begin with the Class of 2023: Students will assess their own learning development over the four years of high school.
Adding a one-credit statewide graduation requirement for high school seniors, many of whom typically begin to display “seniority,” seems like a tough sell. When the high school seniors recruited to meet this opening requirement are the same students who bear the brunt of pandemic-related school closures, the new mandate can be downright anathema.
“The state introduced the new graduation requirements just before all hell broke loose with Covid,” said Donna Hayward, principal of Haddam-Killingworth High School in Higgnum and the state’s 2022 Principal of the Year. “Like any new requirement, I can’t name anyone who was really excited about it. But the hardest part is it started with the Class of 2023.”
And yet, for some of the first-grade students at Haddam-Killingworth to complete the project, it proved to be a rewarding experience.
Students who might otherwise begin to experience the malaise associated with senior year shared with Education Week that their new one-credit project is keeping them busy in their final year of high school and better ways to face the future prepared from The carefully designed project forced seniors to slow down and reflect on their growth as students from their freshman to senior years.
New need takes shape in the shadow of the pandemic
Navigating the transition back to in-person learning after nearly two years of interrupted schooling, Connecticut high schools must focus on implementing a never-before-done project that reflects on the high school term, which Might look very different. Did not attend school remotely for the most part.
“The state is looking for a full credit for graduation that is based on a mastery of any kind. but they [state officials] Hayward said, “It is left to each individual school to determine what that means.” He explained that the project requires students to share their findings and reflections in the spring of senior year during a presentation in front of some prominent faculty members.
Students may not include any work in their portfolio. They should select work that demonstrates personal mastery around the following five key learning expectations:
- personal responsibility, character, cultural understanding and ethical behavior;
- Clear and effective communication to convey ideas and connect with others;
- examining, evaluating and applying information;
- work independently and collaboratively towards a specific outcome;
- Employ creative, innovative and reflective thinking.
“We had heard concept-mastery-based diploma evaluation,” Hayward said. “But ours is completely desi. We started from scratch and built our own. ,
Hayward led a team of teachers, school counselors and media specialists to brainstorm ideas. Hayward said that after receiving feedback from faculty members, the core team went about designing the project with the goal of giving students ownership over their work.
“We wanted our students to start thinking about their own learning and their own development and own it.”
Donna Hayward, principal of Haddam-Killingworth High School in Higgnum, Conn., and 2022 Connecticut Principal of the Year.
Each student stored their work in a school-issued Chromebook that they would eventually present to three faculty members. Along with the chosen pieces of work, students were required to write a reflection piece to align with the five core learning expectations. In late March, all 160 seniors presented their portfolios.
“There were about eight [out of a class of 160] seniors who didn’t quite stick the landing that time,” Hayward said, explaining that they’ll have one more opportunity to earn the requisite credits before the end of the year. Despite some initial skepticism, others have given it the first shot caught.
students share initial ideas
Among the early skeptics was senior Abbie Jones.
“At first, I was like, ‘Why are they adding another project? Why are they adding so many graduation requirements? It sounds ludicrous,'” she said. “Then I learned the reasoning behind it, that the state created a new requirement that we had to have something that showed growth over four years, and that really made a lot of sense.
“You always see how you grow from the beginning of the year to the end of the year in bio, or in English,” she said. “But you never really see your progress until you step into high school, and I think to be able to see that in a project is very special.”
Others had a different initial form.
“When I first heard about this project, I was very excited,” said Jack Ferguson,
, “We may be the first group to do this at our school, but it means we kind of set the tone for what this project is going to be and pave the way for how it goes in the future. Is.”
Senior Calen Powers recalled being uneasy about the project at first. “There were some nerves that set in at the beginning,” he said. “They were put at ease very quickly by the staff and administration because of the amount of time and effort they put into it. They organized it to the point where we just had to follow their lead and trust them. It was quite a great experience ”
reflections on growth
Seniors gave the project high marks, especially because it gave them a unique opportunity to reflect on their growth as high school students.
Senior Anadale Garcia, who goes by Ana, explained that the project inspired her to recognize how her experiences outside of the classroom, including her participation in several team sports, shaped her into a leader in the classroom. helped in She realized this when, as part of a new graduation requirement, she reviewed a project from a health class that required students to complete a group project on the Blue Zones, areas of the Earth where most of the world’s population is affected. Some of the oldest people live. Her group consisted of classmates with whom she never collaborated.
“I actually took the lead in assigning different roles to classmates,” Anna recalled. She credits her ability to learn about group dynamics as an athlete. “I had too many people to see [as a multi-sport athlete]And so many people who showed me how to have skills to lead.
The project also helped Ana identify how she learns best. Looking back on past assignments, she said she felt the assignments completed during COVID were not as strong as she would have liked them to be, which she did to reduce access to one-on-one tutor support during that time. Held responsible.
“During Covid, I felt stable [as a student], I felt like I wasn’t growing,” said Ana, who admitted she learns better when she has individual support from teachers.
Callen chose an essay from his freshman year to compare to an essay from his junior year for his project.
“I love to write, I love to read. I wanted to see how it goes forward,” he said.
“My first essay was about the book Ethan Frome. I did really poorly, and I was very upset then. This year I got a chance to go back and look at it, and compare it to an essay I did in junior year, and see the development firsthand. My [initial] The feeling of ‘I could have done better’ turned into ‘well, I could have done better, but I eventually did better’,” he said. “It’s a good feeling that I got to see progress.”
Although the project was largely an experience in reflection, it indirectly prepared the students for the future.
“The whole point is to get them [seniors] To see: ‘Look where I was as a freshman, and look where I am now…. I know I can make my way in the world,” Hayward said.
He also acknowledged that the students are not the only ones who have learned something about themselves during the process.
Hayward said, “We have 160 seniors and I think I know them pretty well.” “Then I sat down with them [during the portfolio presentations]And I learned something new about them.”