Rethinking the Last Year of High School

Making a difference

Problem:

How do you design a senior year alternative program that provides a dynamic alternative to the same old electives and AP—a program that connects students to the world through mentorships and time off campus, that allows pursuit of a deep interest that can lend itself to research, presentation, and juried evaluation, be inexpensive to run and distinguish the school?

Task:

  • Sell faculty on a different kind of crediting and work load distribution for senior year
  • design a program that suits a wide range of students yet holds them all to a research and presentation standard as a graduation requirement
  • manage external mentorships, panelists, and alumni involvement
  • create a robust archive of model projects
  • make the last year of high school the lively transition to college it could and should be

Results:

  • Co-designed a program in the mid 1990s entitled Senior Focus that provided a model for a number of schools of this kind of a senior year
  • It remains a signature in the school where it was first designed. Many schools do this kind of program now (though not very well); but it was ahead of its time then
  • Maximized effective use of several reform principles taking root then: portfolio and exhibit assessment; use of external mentorships; replacing the notion of AP as the only kind of advanced work for seniors by privileging independent leaning and depth over breadth.
  • Became the subject of several national presentations
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