No more senior projects required at Eastlake

July 2, 2014

By Ari Cetron

LWSD school board discusses allowing sports to count as classroom credit

New: July 2, 11:30 a.m.

In a bit of irony, a senior project led to the death of senior projects.
One student (Tiffany Stewart, from near Yakima) designed her senior project around the idea to have the Legislature remove the requirement for a culminating project at the end of a student’s high-school career. She was successful. State lawmakers did away with the requirement, and starting next year, so will the Lake Washington School District.
The board voted unanimously – board President Jackie Pendergrass was absent – to remove the requirement at its June 23 meeting as part of an overall review of graduation requirements.
The projects had been problematic for districts, since no state funding came with the requirements. Students would engage in a wide array of projects, from organizing benefit concerts to cake decorating. Critics often pointed to projects like the latter when questioning the project’s value.
Lake Washington Superintendent Traci Pierce said district officials are working with schools to find other ways to get students to think critically about cross-discipline work, essentially retaining what Pierce characterized as the “good parts” of the project.
Dropping the requirement met with little discussion from the school board, but board member Chris Carlson wanted to find a way to give students academic credit for playing on a sports team.
Pierce explained a different change to graduation requirements the district wanted to explore. Students have been able to be excused from physical-education classes if they play on a sports team. However, they would still need to take tests to show they understood the knowledge portion of gym classes.
Pierce said the district wants to find other ways for students to demonstrate they have mastered that knowledge.
Carlson said students should be able to get the credit for having taken the class if they are participating in sports.
Students can already earn credits for some outside activities. For example, Pierce said, a student involved in ballet might be able to earn a performing arts credit. Students can also earn credits for classes they take online, including PE.
Carlson said that doesn’t make sense.
“It’s irrational to say online PE counts, football doesn’t,” he said.
Pierce seemed lukewarm to the idea in general. She said that one of the reasons for allowing students to test online for PE is to free up that time for other academic classes. Since they still get that time, she didn’t see why the district would allow the credit. She noted students don’t get English credits for reading on their own.
Carlson said he’s hoping it would give students a bit of leeway academically. The state will soon require students to have 24 credits to graduate from high school. Although it is moving to a seven-period day, right now the district offers only six periods (times four years of high school). As a result, when 24 credits are the rule it means students must pass every class in order to graduate. Credit for after-school sports participation would allow students room to make mistakes during the school day, he explained.
“I don’t want students to get screwed by, ‘You must be perfect,’” he said.
Pierce said district officials had researched the idea four years ago. She said she remembered a different district receiving a negative audit report for offering such credits, due to the way sports teams are funded.
The school board will likely consider continuing the discussion at a later date.

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