Seniors have new graduation requirement

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

This year’s seniors will be required to complete career-related experience tasks before they can graduate.

High school teacher Nancy Ellis outlined the new graduation requirement Monday at the regular District 55 School Board meeting.

“We decided this year, we were going to start small,” Ellis said. “We want to build a real good quality product and expand from there. So we took a look at what the state was requiring and started to ask our seniors to develop a minimum of one piece of evidence for each area (within the career-related experience requirement).”

Each senior has a folder that will include several items they need to show they’ve met the requirement.

Only seniors have it now, Ellis said. “We only ran enough for seniors because we want to refine and make it look better. Hopefully by spring this year, this will be in the hands of everyone in the high school.”

Among the items in the folder will be an “education plan,” ideally a booklet that is filled out the freshman year in coming years. The students will add to it as they progress through the grades and include planning for post-high school.

The seniors will have to complete their education plan before the end of the year, Ellis said. The second piece in the folder one career-related learning experience.

“Those are real-life experiences in their upper-level classes relating to something in real life,” Ellis said. As an example, Ellis described her husband’s accounting class, in which students do the books for a fictitious company, simulating a real-life experience. He has had a number of students get interested in the subject and pursue careers in accounting as a result, she said.

As students complete their career-related experience, they will write papers, called reflections, on what they have learned and explaining the evidence they have to prove they’ve gained the experience.

They will “reflect on how that career-related learning experience relates to their goals,” Ellis said. If a student can convince the school their experience relates to a career path, then it counts.

The students provide evidence to go along with reflections. The evidence may include anything from an actual employment evaluation to a letter of recommendation or a time card.

The students are required to show evidence that they have met standards in personal management, teamwork, problem solving, communication, employment foundations and career development. A single project may show evidence of meeting the requirement in multiple areas.

The evidence is generally student-driven, Ellis said. The state wants students, no longer teachers, to make the connections between their education and their future. They can take their evidence from the workplace, from participation in sports, participation in community events and much more.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be school-related, Ellis said. “We’re acknowledging … the things they do in the community.”

The state wants multiple career-related experiences for graduating students, Ellis said. This school year, seniors will be required to do only one. Juniors this year must complete two, and freshmen and sophomores will be required to do three before they graduate.

In addition, seniors will need to prepare for a job fair in December, fulfilling their career development learning standard, Ellis said. To prepare, they will need to complete a resume and job applications.

As the high school focuses on these requirements, students may grumble about collecting the evidence, but they are interested and thinking about their future, Ellis said. She has had dozens of conversations with students about their futures.

In one case, a student told her how he was interested in business until he took an anatomy class. Now he wants to change his focus to health services and enter the medical field. For that junior, it will become a reflection paper.

“I cannot walk down the hall without students talking to me about their future,” Ellis said. “Do you know how exciting that is?”

In other business, the board:

■ Accepted the resignation of Don Hopkins for “personal and health reasons.” The board agreed by consensus to send a card of thanks to Hopkins for years of service to the community and School District.

Hopkins also resigned his position as chairman of the Linn-Benton-Lincoln Education Service District Board of Directors and as president of the Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District Board of Directors, along with numerous appointed committee positions in the community and county.

This followed in the wake of his arrest last week. Hopkins had not been arraigned nor had he been indicted by a grand jury as of Friday.

The board announced the opening of Hopkins’ seat Monday night. Hopkins represented the Holley area. If no one from the Holley area applies within the next 20 days, the position will be opened up to the anyone in School District boundaries.

The board will then appoint a replacement who will serve until June 30. The position will be open for election in March, and the winning candidate will serve from July 1 to June 30, 2009 when Hopkins’ term was to expire.

Interested candidates can apply at the superintendent’s office at the district’s Central Office. Call 367-7126 for more information.

Present at the meeting were Redick, Roberts, Jeff Lynn, Mike Reynolds, Leena Neuschwander, David VanDerlip, Diane Gerson and Scott Proctor.