In an effort led by Dr. Roger Fuller, upper school principal, and Dr. Kimberly Schwartz, assistant principal, Milken is joining a handful of schools across the nation in revolutionizing the fourth quarter of senior year.
The interruptions of spring break and March of the Living (MOTL), early commencement of the semester, and “senioritis” plaguing the senior class all pose challenges to the standard fourth quarter structure. Over the past eight years, faculty committees have worked intermittently to resolve the situation.
“We realized that there are alternate methods of learning,” Fuller said. “We are making a shift towards project-based and portfolio-learning, rather than just test assessments.”
Starting April 1, all senior classes (except for Advanced Placement courses and specialized electives) will be terminated. In their place, students will immerse themselves in independent student projects. Each student, with the assistance of an advisory panel, will select an area of interest he or she wishes to explore. The student will then select a mentor and write a proposal to be approved by either Fuller or Schwartz. Throughout the quarter, the senior will record what he or she learns in a student-learning portfolio.
In seeking to foster independent scholarship, Fuller and Schwartz are leaving the options for this venture open to all possibilities. Students can select modes that are academic, artistic, spiritual, religious, professional or a combination of some sort. Students in the Wise Individualized Senior Experience program can use this opportunity to extend and further an internship. Students attending MOTL have the option of selecting a topic that correlates to the trip, such as exploring the nature of repressed people in the twentieth century or creating a photo diary. Students interested in art can use this time to create a series of sculptures or photographs.
“We expect 18-year-old students to make decisions, yet we do not give them choices in high school,” Fuller said. “This will be a pilot test for a child to make a mature decision and then reflect on that in a portfolio-based project.”
By focusing on what students are truly interested and passionate about, Fuller hopes that the program will serve as a stepping stone towards collegiate independence.