YAKIMA, Wash. — The senior project, a requirement in the Yakima School District since 2008, appears to be on the verge of extinction.
The Yakima school board plans to vote on whether to eliminate the senior culminating projects at Tuesday’s business meeting, and all indications point to it being dropped, officials said at a board meeting Friday.
The move comes just months after state lawmakers passed a measure eliminating the state-mandated requirement and giving school districts the option to remove them.
The change would be amended into the graduation requirements beginning with the 2014-15 seniors.
Lawmakers approved the creation of “culminating projects” in 2000 and they were implemented with Class of 2008.
But the projects became a burden for many seniors, pushing East Valley High School senior Tiffany Stewart to do her project on eliminating the graduation requirement. She had the help of her stepfather, Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, who pushed a measure that gained traction in Olympia earlier this year.
The Legislature passed Senate Bill 6552 — which also reformed instructional hour requirements and increased the number of high school credits required to graduate — in March, and Gov. Jay Inslee signed it into law the next month.
Board members and administrators alike said it was not an easy decision to eliminate senior projects. The assignments have benefits such as improving public speaking skills and invigorating student interest in learning. Some students even plan their projects early in high school.
However, a number of factors shifted the district’s stance on the issue: student stress over the projects and full implementation of the Common Core State Standards, plus accompanying changes in achievement testing.
Deputy Superintendent Jack Irion said removing the projects will not mean the end of lengthy and rigorous work.
“With our classes going to a more project-based approach, students are going to have more and more opportunities to develop projects and make presentations,” Irion said. “I think you’re going to see things that resemble senior projects but in a different format in the classroom structure.”