U-32 students who want to check their progress toward graduation can log on to Infinite Campus, where with a series of only 2 clicks students and parents to see a student’s “posted graduation standard proficiencies.” One-click on the “more” tab brings them to a space where eight clicks down a student can check their graduation proficiencies. Once they are there, there are 41 standards on the left-hand side, and on the right are color-coordinated squares. “Beginning” is red, “developing” is yellow, “proficient” is green and “advanced” is blue. If the standard they are looking at ends in a green or blue square the student has met that standard. If a standard ends in red or yellow, there is some work that needs to be done in order to graduate.
It is simple in writing, but despite the best efforts of staff, there is still a disconnect between the school and the students. Crucial information about graduation and standards seems to be getting to students after they need it, or they don’t know where to access it.
This saga of graduation confusion is not new. It was an issue for last year’s seniors, the first to graduate with the proficiency system.
As Eva Jessup, from the class of 2020, reported:
“One of the most complicated parts of the transition to proficiency was the multitude of learning targets, transferable skills, performance indicators, and rubrics. Before, students simply had to clock a certain number of hours in the classroom (obtaining a set number of credits) to receive a grade (on a 100 point scale). By comparison, the proficiency system has many more parts and pieces.”
The students’ confusion isn’t for lack of effort on the school’s part. Lisa Laplante, head of student services, and other counselors at U-32 have been hard at work supplying this year’s class of 2021 with materials and virtual guides to graduation and after college life.
There have been virtual seminars for college application questions, a paper handed out at the beginning of the year clearly marking all the standards students need to graduate, and quarterly progress scores.
There have been other adaptations to support this graduating class. U-32 has never offered the SAT’s on a school day until this year when it was apparent that many testing centers were not going to hold an SAT due to Covid-19.
“We offered the SAT’s to 54 seniors this year,” said Laplante. “We are doing the best we can under the safety guidelines. It just looks different.”
In spite of these efforts students still find themselves struggling to figure out how to apply to college and making sure they are in the correct classes to be on track for graduation. It seems that the materials for success are here, but given our current virtual schedule, communication and one-on-one support are compromised.
Like some other students in the class of 2021, Carter Little had all the standards he needed for graduation by the end of junior year.
“I could have graduated last year,” Little said. “But I didn’t know that until this year when my TA told me on the first day of school.”
Even if he did know, Little would still have completed his senior year.
“I want to graduate with the people I have known since kindergarten or seventh grade,” Little said. “I also needed harder classes under my belt to get into competitive colleges. I had the bare minimum.”
Senior May Lamb hasn’t followed a “traditional” path through high school. Her first semester of sophomore year was spent in Laramie, Wyoming with her family, and none of the credits she earned in that semester were transferred.
“Counselors weren’t very helpful in informing me with what was going on,” she said, “and I was never able to earn proficiency or credit for that semester.”
Although meeting graduation requirements hasn’t been an issue for Lamb, as she has taken dual enrollment classes with UVM and CCV and most of the AP class U-32 offers, this raises a larger question for the class of 2021:
Do the students know what they need to graduate and are they meeting those proficiencies?
Senior Lucy Krokenberger has taken a more traditional path through high school and has been attending U-32 since seventh grade.
Krokenberger does not know the standards she needs to graduate,
“I couldn’t list them off,” she said. “I haven’t received anything from the school.”
Krokenbereger is a good student and is not worried about graduation, but what about the students who ended last year with an “I” or have ever received a 2?
Iona Bristol was a student at U-32 until this December when it became clear that she wasn’t going to be able to graduate because of too many missing standards.
“I decided it was best to just take high school out of the equation and move on,” she said. “I feel like I’m doing a lot better now.” Bristol is now working on getting her GED after feeling burnt out and held back in the normal high school setting.
With the 2020-2021 school year being half virtual learning, it may be that students are having a harder time getting the one on one support they need from teachers and counselors. Finding the time and place is hard. There is support out there for students but it appears many students aren’t aware of it.
Graduating seems more complicated than ever, and the students who are succeeding seem to be ones you are taking matters into their own hands, and reaching out for help.
“There have been a lot of questions that I had to ask my counselor about. I didn’t know what was required of me until I was in the thick of it.” Lamb said. “I definitely had to reach out, but I think part of that was I was doing this process a lot earlier than most people.”