Senior Project: Testing Our Skill or Holding Us Back?

Staff Writer: James Sorensen

In 2001, due to education reform currently happening in the U.S., the No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law and along with it came the culminating project, or as we locally call it, the senior project.

The intention of the senior project is to test all senior level high school students to see if they have truly learned anything from their time in school. The requirements for the project vary but most have a similar base to them. It revolves around a student incorporating a large amount of research into two parts of the project.

The multi-genre research packet (MGRP) requires that the student take his or her main topic and use it to create several different forms of works. For instance, if someone is researching car maintenance then they might create a pamphlet detailing the process for buying car parts. This and several other preset choices are available to use and five must be done, each with their own choices.

The second part demands that we spend the entire year developing a physical product that we present before a board of judges. Using the same example from earlier, if you were researching cars you might spend the year rebuilding a car engine or even refurbishing a car. There are also several check ups and deadlines to meet during the year and specific guidelines on how this is done.

In all honesty, this is not the real issue; while this may seem strenuous, there are worse projects out there. The real problem comes from the amount of credit the project is worth and the mental strain it places on students.

The senior project here at WHS and starting this year the entire state of Georgia, is directly tied to the English class of all seniors. English, of course, being one of the core curriculums and is required to graduate. The project as a whole has enough weight to it to allow grade drops of 20 whole points. This can be extremely scary as this is our last school year here and this can cause GPAs to decrease greatly or it can even fail students. It is extremely heartbreaking to go through twelve years of school and be on the verge of freedom only to have to repeat the course because you did not do one project well enough.

Time also does not help this situation either. While many people plan their futures prior to this year, there are still people laying a foundation for the quickly-coming future and having to manage both the senior project, which could potentially fail them, in addition to their future plans and on top of all of this they still have to organize their normal school work and private lives.

It is undeniable that the inclusion of this project has caused a great deal of stress in student’s lives. Several websites have since been founded that tell students how deal with their stress once they start the project, and while it is nice to have options and support, it still does not directly confront the issue.

I wanted to see what opinions seniors and teachers around Woodstock high had about the project so I went out and conducted a small, anonymous of course, survey. I asked each of the students I interviewed if the project has helped them in some way and then I asked if it had harmed them. Not surprisingly at all people had more negative than positive things to say.

The more stand out responses were: “The idea that we need to be tested like this one year, even though previous years do nothing to teach us anything about how to do this is ridiculous.”; “I did not know anything about this project before this year and when I did I audibly cursed out.”; and my personal favorite, “why would this help me at all? This project was invented by Satan himself just for laughs.”

However, there were some positive ones the best spoken being, “I think that while it is hard and tough I have learned some genuine skills that I appreciate and I think it is a good way to test people to see if they are ready to the real world.”

As a senior going through the project myself, I can say there are arguments to be heard from both sides. The idea of a final end-all test to see if we are ready for the real world is a genuinely good idea and can help students who need help realize they need it. If they can’t manage something like this, it may be impossible for them to manage themselves when they get an actual job.

Of course, on the latter side, this project has mentally scarred kids and has more likely than not hurt students rather than help them. It is hard to call the people who signed this evil as they had an honest purpose for helping kids get through life, but in its current state, I would say the senior project hurts more than helps. However, with amendments and changes made to it I believe that this project could excel in what it is trying to do and excel students to greater heights.

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