Graduating gets complicated

As high school seniors prepare to make the next big jump in their lives, they face a host of new requirements to meet before they graduate.

Hopefully those new requirements will help prepare them for what lies ahead in their young lives.

While passing the Washington Assessment of Student Learning has garnered most of the attention, students also have to complete the required course credits, develop a “High School and Beyond” plan, and complete a culminating project that includes a presentation that highlights their classwork, community service projects and their career plans.

To help Oak Harbor High School students compile their work, they were all given purple binders that they carry through all of their high school years. They use the binders to store highlights of their accomplishments.

Senior Bill Hammond said he originally hated the idea of the binder when he came to Oak Harbor High School in the beginning of his freshman year. However, as the portfolio developed, he said it helped him with organization and to stay focused on his career plans after high school.

Another senior, Becca Wheeler, said it feels good to look in the binder and see the major work she’s completed over the past several years.

The High School and Beyond plan seems to have had a positive effect on Hammond and Wheeler. Wheeler is planning to attend Pacific Lutheran University in the fall to major in nursing while Hammond will attend Skagit Valley College to start working to become an auto mechanic or an English teacher.

Associate Principal Bill Weinsheimer said the students’ High School and Beyond plan is embedded into the portfolio. Many students often didn’t see the point of the portfolios when they started them in their freshman year. However, opinions changed as they see how the portfolio focuses their efforts.

Meanwhile, as students are busy compiling their portfolios, officials are busy trying to figure out how the 400 graduating seniors will give their culminating presentations next spring.

That work is compounded by the seniors who haven’t yet passed the writing and reading portions of the WASL. There are between 20 and 25 students who haven’t passed either the reading or writing portion.

Both Hammond and Wheeler passed the WASL. Being from Southern California, Hammond said the WASL is a far simpler process than what he experienced down south.

“You’re doing nothing but test, test, test, test,” in California, Hammond said, adding he breathed a sigh of relief when he learned of the WASL.

The state Legislature eased up on the math requirement earlier in the year. If students don’t pass the math portion of the WASL they can still graduate, but they have to take additional classes, prove they are proficient, or pass future retests.

Career and Technical Education Director Sandee Oehring said she doesn’t know yet what kind of panel will listen to the hundreds of student presentations.

Throughout their high school years, seniors have had to participate in several hours of community service as another requirement for graduation. The types of community service depends on the student. Wheeler gave time volunteering at a special education camp, helping out in the youth group at Oak Harbor Lutheran Church, and teaching middle schoolers how to play volleyball.

Hammond volunteered to help out at a preschool and picked up litter in the neighborhood.

On top of the new challenges, the seniors still have to meet their credit requirements in order to graduate from Oak Harbor. They have to earn 23 credits to meet the school district’s graduation requirements. The number of credits is higher than the state demands, which is only 19 credits.

With the culminating presentation, portfolio, career plans, WASL tests, and the credit requirements, the class of 2008 will have completed a lot of work in order to graduate this spring. If all goes as planned, their accomplishments will translate into success in future endeavors.

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