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Current Jefferson County Public Schools freshmen — the class of 2021 — will have to show career and college readiness in math and English to graduate, either by scoring well on college entrance or other aptitude tests, or by completing an individualized capstone project.
The additional requirement affects students statewide and came from a series of bills that were passed in 2008. The new requirements were developed by the state in 2015 to get students ready for a more complex world of education and work.
In addition to the 23 credit hours in English language arts, math, science, social studies, physical education and fine/practical arts to graduate Jeffco students now need to meet additional readiness criteria. Students will have several options: Score high on tests such as the Accuplacer, a college placement test; the ASVAB, a multiple-aptitude battery; or the ACT or SAT college entrance exams; successfully complete advanced placement, international baccalaureate or concurrent enrollment classes; score well on end-of-course assessments; or complete an individualized capstone project.
“We have a huge range of students, and schools need to have the different choices to meet the needs for their community,” said Jeffery Fugita, executive director of curriculum and instruction for Jeffco schools.
That is why Jeffco plans to offer as many options as possible for students to meet the additional graduation requirement.
“The capstone project gives schools the most flexibility,” said Gavan Goodrich, principal of Ralston Valley High School in Arvada. “If a student doesn’t test well, this gives them the opportunity to do something that’s a little bit more individualized.”
Adrenne Rossi, pathway designer for Jeffco schools, emphasized that capstones are a strong option for all students.
“Capstones are a way for students to demonstrate their cumulative learning in English or math in a way that’s not a final exam,” Rossi said. “Capstones are centered around students’ choice learning.”
Some district schools are already utilizing the capstone project.
Rossi recalls a recently completed capstone from a student who was interested in the role that stress plays in modern society. Through research and conversation, the student discovered ways in which art can help lower stress levels. He created a series on mandalas for adult coloring, interviewed local artists and researched stress.
“It was all his work with no direction,” Rossi said. “He had to figure out the ways in which his idea was related to the community at-large and what role he might play in relieving stress.”
The project was a culmination of research in a presentation, the coloring book he created, an extended essay and a website with research and examples.
“That year-long project resulted in this body of work that said I am capable of doing research — which is an English standard — writing, reading and presentation skills,” Rossi said. “It’s a cumulative way of allowing a student to demonstrate readiness and also let them explore an area of interest they may not be able to do in a traditional school setting.”
Although most students will not be working on their “menu options” until their junior year, staff at Jeffco schools started the conversation about the new graduation requirements two years ago by introducing principals to the options.
Goodrich is slowly rolling out the new guidelines to students at Ralston Valley.
“We don’t want to put a lot of pressure on kids,” he said. “We’re going to teach them what they need to be successful, and if they are not able to meet that measure, we’re going to find a solution, something they’ll achieve.”
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