April 28, 2010
Senator Clodfelter-Co-Chair, Senator Hartsell-Co-Chair-Presiding, Representative Crawford-Co-Chair, and Representative Cole-Co-Chair
Presentation and Committee Consideration of Recommendations on High School Graduation Project Requirement by Dr. Kiernan McGorty: In 2005, the State Board began requiring all public high school students, starting with the class of 2010, to complete a Graduation Project to graduate. Session Law in 2009 suspended that requirement for two years to allow the Program Evaluation Division to evaluate the cost and effectiveness of the Graduation Project requirement. Data was collected from public high schools. Visits were made to schools and districts as well as the State Board and DPI. Businesses and business groups were also part of the data sources. NC schools began requiring high school projects in 1994 that were typically completed in their senior year, in an English course. Sixty-nine percent of the schools surveyed decided to require the Class of 2010 complete the project. Many of these did not include the urban districts, but rather the smaller school systems in rural areas of the State. The DPI model is comprised of a paper, a product, a presentation, and a portfolio.
The evaluation of the Graduation Project resulted in four findings.
- Finding 1: The cost to implement the state model is estimated at $6.6 million in the first year and $5.8 million in succeeding years. After communicating with the schools it was determined that only six percent of those participating were actually following the graduation model as DPI had intended. Currently, districts are spending $708 per school and schools spent $7,214 each in 2008-2009 to begin the effort.
- Finding 2: Studies on effectiveness have limited designs and produced mixed results. According to USED strong evidence of effectiveness requires random control studies at multiple sites. Only three studies have examined outcomes from the senior projects and none were random. These studies produced mixed results.
- Finding 3: Support is based on anecdotes and self reports. Graduation Projects may offer students a learning experience and they may also encourage businesses and communities to get involved in schools, but this is not fact based.
- Finding 4: Initial implementation of the State model lacked necessary elements. There were many missing pieces including the following; program model, needs assessment, pilot studies, stakeholder engagement, centralized support, and evaluation.
The Final Recommendation is the General Assembly should direct the State Board of Education to delegate authority to school districts to decide whether to implement a Graduation Project requirement. This needs to be a local school system decision and that will require legislation since the legislation suspending the Graduation Project requirement expires July 1, 2011. A motion was made at the request of the committee to draft legislation to allow the Graduation Project to become a local option with school systems, and eliminate the requirement that is set to restart on July 1, 2011. The complete report is available upon request from my office.