Senior projects could be scrapped

RALEIGH A bill in the Legislature would scrap the thesis-like projects.

Opponents of the school work call them an unfunded mandate and prompt some students who don't think they can do them to drop out.

The graduation project requirement, which was approved by the state Board of Education several years ago, goes into effect with next year's senior class. It mandates that all graduating students produce a paper and give a presentation.

The work has to be done anytime during a student's high school career. Students don't get a letter grade, but must get a "satisfactory" or "exemplary" status for each project component.

While some critics and students don't like it, supporters say it teaches many of the skills students will need when they get to college like time management and meeting deadlines.

Critics hadn't gotten much support in the Legislature until the economy tanked. Now, some lawmakers say requiring schools to manage the projects means more work and more money spent that's not reimbursed by the state.

"The timing's bad. The money - we don't have the money. And you're gonna force this thing down on the local boards and they don't have the money. They're having to give up money," offered Rep. Jimmy Love (D) Lee County.

Love suspects it will cost Wake schools, for example, at least a quarter of a million dollars to run the program next year.

At Raleigh's Millbrook High School, some parents were already questioning the value of the graduation projects. They say under the current economic conditions they're really glad legislators have decided to review it.

"Does it make us more prepared for college or life? I question that. But it is a very stressful time in our economy and I don't know if that's the best use of our taxpayer's money," said Denise Kirkland, Millbrook High School PTA President.

Sponsors of the bill are careful not to say the graduation projects are a bad idea for students. But, they think the idea should hold until the state can pay for it. In the meantime, the bill calls for legislative staffers to study the cost and effectiveness of the idea.

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