Senior Projects in a Rural School Page: 70
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TEACHING IN CONTEXT: RURAL SCHOOLS
Matt Rickey and Glenda Moss
Senior Projects in a Rural School
Technology and a school-university partnership enabled high school faculty members to implement
the Senior Project. Matt Rickey and Glenda Moss describe the process of change, the project
. requirements, and the learning that resulted for students and faculty.
like to think of East Noble High
School (ENHS) as a high-tech rural
school. We have one of the top tech
departments in the state-four com-
puter labs, two designed for research and composi-
tion; student access to email and the Internet; and
programs such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and
Excel. In this blue-collar factory and farming area,
we are rural but we are not isolated or void of tech-
nology. Writing grants and reaching out to philan-
thropists and a neighboring university helped us to
integrate technology and research into our rural con-
text to successfully implement the Senior Project in
our school in 2001.
Like other schools, ENHS is experiencing the
growing pains of change as we work to improve
thinking and writing skills in a student population
with a range of abilities. The Senior Project helps us
meet these goals. However, the implementation
would have been much more difficult, if not impos-
sible, without the learning partnership created be-
tween ENHS and the School of Education at Indiana
University Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW).
Coauthor Glenda Moss, assistant professor of sec-
ondary education, mentored me in the process of
using narrative methods to analyze my experiences
of choosing and implementing the Senior Project
program at ENHS and writing this article.
A Historical Perspective
The Senior Project was introduced in 1986 by a group
of English teachers who worked at South Medford
High School in Medford, Oregon. We learned about
it at a National Staff Development Council seminar on
educational innovations, held in San Antonio, Texas,
in the summer of 2000. Teachers who have used this
innovation claim that the Senior Project allows all stu-
dents "from basic to advanced, rich and poor, socialite
and outcast" (Summers 63) to be involved in an op-
portunity to control what they will study in depth
during their final year of high school. While Sum-
mers indicated that some students could struggle with
the paper, she noted that they typically excel with the
physical portion and the presentation.
Summers saw the project as a way of bringing
seniors together in contrast to the fragmentation that
resulted from tracking. Many schools, such as ours,
had been separating students academically-college
bound versus noncollege bound.
In 2004, the basic model developed by these in-
novators is being implemented in high schools across
the nation. Chadwell listed six goals for the project:
1. To provide a long-term, challenging, multi-
disciplinary activity to enhance a limp sec-
ond semester senior experience ...
2. To hold graduating seniors accountable for
twelve years of schooling and to demonstrate
to the public that learning did take place....
3. To insist and expect seniors to model active
learning focused on a long term educational
4. To allow seniors to make some choices....
5. To involve the community in an academic
6. To provide the staff with a sense of accom-
plishment and a clear idea of needed im-
provements by showcasing the results of
their efforts. (8)
70 English Journal Vol. 93, No. 6
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Rickey, Matt & Moss, Glenda. Senior Projects in a Rural School, article, July 2004; [Urbana, Illinois]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc109698/m1/1/: accessed November 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Dallas.