More recently, high school seniors in the Everett School District were required to complete a "culminating exhibition" to graduate.
Students picked a topic, did some research and made a presentation, judged by a teacher and a panel of community volunteers.
This year, that's changed. Students still do research. But some of the topics they explore are how to apply for scholarships, what jobs they'd like to be hired for, and which technical school, community college or university they'd like to enroll in.
The goal now is for students to select a project that will better prepare them for what happens after graduation and to think about educational, career and financial goals from one to five years after leaving high school.
There are mock job interviews and tips on how to make a good impression.
Students still do a presentation, but they video tape it, edit it, and then post it online so that it can be reviewed, not only by their teacher but fellow classmates.
Instead of being asked to write a journal about their topic, they create a blog.
"It is more directly tied to their future than just taking on a project," said Jennifer Chambers, who is teaching what in high school shorthand is called the CE course at Everett High School.
In the past, the purpose of the project was to see what it's like to set goals, come up with a plan, and meet those goals, she said. "It was a great process, but the project didn't focus on anything that had to be tied to their future."
When school board members visited schools, students often told them, "We need to change this," said board member Carol Andrews.
Students are now asked to produce resumes and practice filling out job applications. They are coached and get comments from their teachers throughout the semester, not just at the end of the course, said Jo Anne Buiteweb, a curriculum specialist.
Students learn how to present themselves in the best professional manner, she said."It's more useful than a great big project that takes up a lot of time."
Everett High School senior Delaney Goetz said that with her interest in joining a college or university rowing team as a coxswain, she had begun to plan for what happens after high school even before she took the CE course.
But she said the course has helped further those plans. On her blog, she's included links to a web page by Mary Whipple, an Olympic gold medalist coxswain, as well as information from a number of other rowing sources.
"When I started the class … I had already done my college research," she said. "The one thing it did help was in filling out scholarship applications." The class only required students to fill out one application," she said. "Several of us have been trying to do it once a week."
She said also learned some new digital skills. "I've had to do presentations many times in school, but not video tape it, edit it and post it online," she said.
Goetz said she thinks her classmates have found the course helpful, too. "When you come home from school and do homework, you don't have two hours to fill out a college application," she said. "It's nice to get that done in class and be able to ask your teacher questions."
Debbie Long, a real estate agent who lives in Mill Creek, said that difference between what students are doing now and what her son and daughter previously were asked to do in their Jackson High School CE classes can be summed up in two words: "Night and day," she said.
In the past, a student could ask to do their project on how to bake a loaf of bread and get it approved, she said. "That had no application for a child's life or what they would be doing their whole life," she said.
Long was one of the business professionals who recently volunteered to conduct mock job interviews at Everett High School.
The old way didn't include interview and business skills, she said. "It was just ridiculous. This is more applicable for students.
"I feel the changes are huge," she said. "I'm just thrilled with it moving forward."
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on the changes to the Everett School District's Culminating Exhibition, a requirement for graduating seniors is at everettce.com.
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