Culminating Project Begins Year With Changes

The beginning of this school year marked the beginning of a new graduation requirement policy found in the Cumulative Project that all students are required to complete to graduate in the Puyallup School District.

The changes made have been considered since the 2011-2012 school year when the three career specialists met and began to discuss altering the requirements.

“[The committee] looked at other districts, what our district has done in the past, what the state still requires and then started to make those changes,” On-Time Graduation Specialist Annette Burnett said.

One of the changes to the project was the removal of the reading reflection.

According to Career Specialist Shelley Jellison, the reason that the reading reflection was eliminated was because students were not actually completing it.

“Unfortunately [the reading reflection] was probably the most plagiarized piece of the Culminating Project,” Jellison said. “We found that a lot of students waited until their senior year to reflect on reading that they did their sophomore year, trying to remember what they read and how it was meaningful or what kind of impact it had on their life. It really didn’t come through.”

Another change to the Cumulative Project was the removal of the cover letter for the resume that is included in the project.

“The reason that [the cover letter] was eliminated is that a lot of the committee felt that the jobs high school students would be applying for would be online,” Jellison said. “So if you want to apply for McDonalds or Safeway or some of the other typical high school jobs, you would apply online and it’s not going to require a cover letter.”

In the past, a student had to wait until after their sophomore year to start their 20 hours of community service that are required to graduate. After the new changes, a student can start their community service hours at the beginning of their sophomore year.

In addition, the job shadow that was completed in a student’s freshman year is no longer required to be in the project. If a student has already completed their job shadow, it doesn’t need to be included in their project to graduate.

“You can include [the job shadow] if it is already done but you don’t have to go do one if you haven’t done one yet,” Burnett said.

The last adjustment to the cumulative portfolio was a change in the evidence of learning portion of the project. Now, a minimum of eight samples and maximum of 12 samples of works are required. Out of these, four must be from core classes — English, math, science and social studies — and four must be from pathway classes.

Advisory teacher Cherokee Ainslie says that she has mixed feelings over the project changes.

“Some of it made sense and some of it I was disappointed in because I thought some of the [requirements] were beneficial to the students,” Ainslie said.

The feedback from students over the project changes has also been mixed.

“Some of the students are ecstatic that the job shadow has been dropped because they are the ones that haven’t done it, however those that did do it were very disappointed that they went through all that effort and didn’t get it,” Ainslie said. “I haven’t really heard any feedback on the changes when it comes to the evidence of learning but I’m pretty sure I will once my senior advisory class comes closer to filling that out.”

Overall, changing the project requirements was meant to streamline the project.

“The project that we had had in place before this year had been in place for seven years, so we had had it in place for a long time,” Jellison said. “Having worked through it every year and hearing what the feedback was from not just students and parents —we did some surveys of the staff asking them what they thought the most important pieces of the Culminating Project were and what they thought were less important — we really took that into consideration.”