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Quaker Valley looks to change sophomore personal project

| Friday, April 6, 2018, 11:00 p.m.

Quaker Valley leaders are looking to give high school students more choice as they prepare for graduation.

Starting in 2018-19, district leaders are considering switching from the more than a decade-old personal project to a self-directed experiential learning opportunity.

With this, students would have “expanded options that are more differentiated to meet their needs,” high school Principal Deborah Riccobelli said in an email.

That could include building upon internships, apprenticeships, work experiences or partnerships with outside organizations.

“In looking to the future, we are seeking to provide more pathways for students to explore self-directed experiential learning opportunities while identifying and articulating their personal growth,” Riccobelli said.

The changes are geared to increase student voice and choice and enhance self-directed opportunities, including internships, apprenticeships and work partnerships, “by helping the students identify and articulate their growth in the development of skills and dispositions they need for learning, work, and life,” Riccobelli said.

Board members are expected to vote on the proposed changes in April.

Currently, Quaker Valley High School students are required to complete a person project during the first two trimesters of 10th grade. Students must receive a passing grade on the personal project in order to meet graduation requirements, Riccobelli said.

“As part of the process, students produce a creative piece of work in an area of personal interest, while demonstrating skill in time management and in the problem-solving process,” she said. “Students determine topics, seek approval for plans, carry out a task, event, or production, conduct contextual research, and write a paper which documents the learning journey.”

With the self-directed experiential learning opportunity, students would able to complete their program during their sophomore, junior or senior years.

Under the new plan, students still would be able to complete a personal project that could include a community service event or art exhibit, Riccobelli said.

“Others may opt to collaborate with peers, community members or other professionals as part of their experience,” she said in an email. “All students will have a choice in how they document and reflect upon their learning.”

The change was prompted after district leaders found that the personal project “was not working for all students and were seeking ways to improve the process so that more students could truly benefit from self-directed learning,” Riccobelli said.

During the 2016-17 school year, the district contracted with BrainSpaces, Inc., an educational consultant, where students expressed a desire to have “more input and decision making in their educational experience,” she said. “This shift helps move QVHS in that direction.”

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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