Sarah Likens ’12
With the new semester, came new changes, some of these new changes included adjustments to the Independent study contract.
Among the changes are new criteria, new guidelines, and more required signatures. Independent Studies (IS) had become less structured and lenient class over the years which was never the intention. This is one of the reasons why IS have changed this semester.
On the previous Independent Study form students had to write down the teacher, hour, semester, and class or subject you would be learning about. There was also a section to write down your goals for the class, plan for the semester, and what students plan to accomplish within that semester. Outside of that, there was no universal rubric and no administrative oversight. Consequently, past Independent Studies were designed to go on for the class, but what students wrote down wasn’t monitored so there wasn’t even a need to follow it.
“The disadvantage to an Independent Study is that it’s tough to grade. Your priority isn’t that one student, but your class of 30 or more kids,” said Science Teacher Paul Voyandnoff, who was part of the committee to change the format of Independent Studies. “It was changed because the appearance was that it wasn’t a real class for students to learn during. Nothing got done because there was no guidance for the teachers to follow with their students. This new format allows guidance.”
On the new form for an Independent Study, a student is to create a rubric within the first week of the semester that will outline expectations for a final assessment. During the second week, the outline will be finalized with the student’s Independent Study instructor. Also, in a weekly log or journal, growth and progress will be recorded to be reviewed by the instructor. At the very end the student is asked to give a brief rationale on why they are requesting an IS. Other than the assessment process, the criteria also changed, one of the most important being that only students in their final year of school can take an Independent Study. The collection of signatures has remained the same, except now a parent signature is also required.
“I don’t think many students will want to stick with it. They were going just fine and there was no need for the change,” said senior Taylor Trombley, who has an IS this semester.
“Some students may not see the need for these changes, but the new format allows them to be more independent with a teacher while still having guidelines,” said Superintendent Pamela Balint. “Independent Studies give the opportunity to pursue something of interest with more depth which may include more than just learning in a classroom like visits or shadowing.” With the new guidelines and criteria, Independent Studies will be restored as an option for students to expand on their learning.