Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New High School Graduation Requirements in Georgia

Last week, I received an email inviting me to review the new, proposed high school graduation requirements.  From the accompanying introductory letter, I assume that the current graduation requirements do not satisfy the current legislation (Georgia Code O.C.G.A. § 20-2-140 and 20-2-159.1 through 20-2-159.4).  These will effect anyone entering ninth grade in the 2013-2014 school year and beyond, which translates to both of my children.  After reading the requirements, I had the option to fill out an online survey where I could enter my opinion about the requirements.

After reading the requirements document, I not only filled out the survey, but I also called the office of Pamela Smith to speak with someone.  Why?  Because I have several issues with the proposed graduation requirements, starting with the idea of a "Capstone Project".

Basically, the new requirements include having all seniors do a Capstone Project, which is:
a final and in-depth project that allows a student to synthesize and apply the skills and knowledge acquired from previous educational experiences and academic or career-based course work to demonstrate  achievement, proficiency in written and/or oral communication, financial literacy, workplace skills, and the ability to think critically and creatively to solve real-world problems. This is a rigorous culminating project at the end of a pathway related to a chosen academic, career, technical and agricultural education, fine arts, or world language interest.
So, passing all of the classes and the standardized testing isn't enough?  Now, we require seniors to do a thesis to get a diploma, with an optional thesis presentation?

Is this because we don't have enough kids dropping out, so we need to up the ante? Or is this because Georgia does poorly overall and in comparison to other states, so instead of fixing the problem we try to prove to everyone how brilliant our students are by making them produce a thesis?

This is not a fix, by the way, because the problem is not senior year of high school.  As far as I can tell, the problem with the Georgia education system comes down to two factors: the extent to which the parent or parents value education and the extent to which the surrounding community values education.  The more the parent and community value education, the more the student values education and therefore more the student works in school.  The less the parent and community value education, the less the student values education and therefore the less the student works in school.

If you want to fix the problem with drop-outs and kids not educated enough, you need to fix the home environment first.  Waiting until a kid gets to their senior year is just a bit too late.


  1. Kathryn, I'm a big fan of yours and in this case I have to disagree with your position on this. I think this project sounds like a wonderful, enriching experience if administered in a way students receive guidance and encouragement from teachers throughout the high school years not just the senior year. If students know they will have this project and it folds into their whole high school experience we might find that it serves as something to aim for. I can't do much to help my children prepare for all this standardized testing but I would definitely be able to provide guidance and assistance with this kind of project as many other parents would as well. For the kids who are in homes without attentive parenting, maybe this project will be an incentive for students to take initiative and work on something substantive. I think this idea could be one of the better ideas Cobb County has had. My oldest child just graduated high school in Cobb and now is in college. He called me last week and was telling me how he wishes high school could be designed more like college with more projects, more technology, easier access to teachers for guidance, less busy work and testing. I have to agree with him. I think this capstone project might move Cobb County in a more qualitative, well rounded direction.

  2. I actually do agree with you because my younger son with autism wouldn't be able to do said project (without extensive help from me). It's not because he's stupid; he's above average in language mechanics and math, but because...well, long story, so never mind it here.

    There are a lot of kids who wouldn't have the wherewithal to do this project without help either, and unfortunately, as you said, they don't have that kind of family support at home, which is a huge part of the problem to begin with.

    I can see Lynn's point, and I think it's a lovely idea for those who are pursuing the college path. Perhaps they can make it something that students in an honors/college tract can do. But for those who have no intention of going to college or those who want to do vocational college afterward, this can be an unnecessary burden on them.

    I can see this working, if, from day 1, that is, from the freshman year, all classes are to teach a bit of the skills that a kid would need to do this project. If the project were added on to incrementally each year that a teen is in high school, then it might work. It seems like a huge undertaking in the senior year when kids have some many other things going on anyway.

  3. Ditto, Lynn. The Capstone project should be a year-long experience designed to ensure that the student is indeed prepared for the rigors of college, technical school, or just living an everyday life. If this is too difficult for a student then that student should be required to enroll in remedial classes prior to entering college or other advanced training. No high school student should graduate without the skills that are required for this project. Considering the students have a choice of what their project would cover and that it is an oral or written project no 18 year old student should require parental involvement. I love the idea and think that rather than diminishing Georgia's education system it promotes the importance of proving oneself to an employer or university.

  4. Lynn and Poppy, thank you for your feedback. I think that if a student is heading towards college, it might be beneficial to do a Capstone project. But for a kid heading towards a trade school, or for one who just wants to get a job and live a little before continuing his/her education, I don't see the value. So I think we shall have to agree to disagree. But I do hope that you fill out the online survey. The more responses the Georgia DOE gets, the better the graduation requirements will be in the end.

    TeresaR, I like the idea of having a Capstone project as a class that senior can opt into. Maybe you can move to Georgia and work for the DOE???

    1. LOL! Nah...educating my own kids is work enough, thanks.

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