So much of what we expect kids to do in high school can be irrelevant.
A graduation requirement implemented locally makes sense. It's a four-year project where expectations for student response are high. Meeting the requirement gives students continuing practice in taking responsibility for what they do with their high school opportunity.
The personal portfolio required this year of 150 Hughson High School seniors ends up being several inches thick. It contains a current résumé and letters of recommendation that most of the students have already used as they searched for summer employment. It also holds all the student's state-mandated test scores and a current transcript. Additionally there are student-selected examples of their best work from each of the disciplines throughout their four years. Also included are periodic self-assessments and from the junior year a personally developed mission statement and code of ethics. Periodic instructional time all four years has helped students develop their portfolios.
These last weeks at Hughson High seniors have brought their completed portfolios to senior exit interviews. A variety of community members and a few visiting educators have spent time with each student learning what next steps the student has prepared to take and what high school assignments and experiences she/he believes have been of most value.
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The day I served, interviewers included a nursing instructor at Modesto Junior College, one of The Bee's sportswriters, a school district trustee with agricultural interests, a bilingual community activist and educators from neighboring schools. The interviewers were almost all Hughson graduates.
From their portfolios students were able to produce required examples of their abilities with written and spoken communications. They had examples of work proving critical and creative thinking. They shared projects explaining their concepts of history, science and the arts. They discussed talents they had worked to develop and refine and were versed in current career options. They had copies of their college and trade school applications, scholarship applications and military acceptance.
Most students reported that gradually compiling a portfolio reflecting their plans and accomplishments had helped them realistically keep abreast of their high school efforts. Most expressed confidence they would be able to contribute positively to situations they would move into after graduation.
Principal Debra Davis leads the program, instituted when an accreditation team recommended that Hughson take more measures to ensure its graduates were prepared to enter the work force. Teachers are assigned classes to guide through a particular year's work. Davis lauds their "quality cooperation and support."
Newsweek recently reported the nation's educational pendulum might be swinging toward small high schools. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given $1.8 billion toward opening about 1,000 small high schools.
Following the trend locally, incidentally, Beyer High School is continuing plans for a small school within its larger campus.
Proliferating technology and fast-awakening Second and Third World societies reaching out for jobs that don't take much preparation make this valley a place where education beyond high school is a must. Those Hughson portfolios are meant to be a giant step for its students toward further preparation for an eventual life of fulfilling work.
Brooks, a retired educator, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.