College & Workforce Readiness

High Schools Look Into Alternatives to Keep Seniors Engaged

By Caralee J. Adams — June 25, 2012 2 min read
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Maybe it was evident in your high school seniors’ dismal final report card this month. Or, you saw students nearly checking out as soon as they were accepted to college.


Often, with their most difficult classes and tests behind them, seniors want to cruise to the finish line of spring graduation rather than push to the end, which can make it challenging to keep them engaged. With applications in before the end of a senior’s first semester—and a growing number of applicants are accepted early—it’s understandable that some would have a feeling of a free pass until graduation.

The problem is when students don’t take challenging classes their last year of high school, they can struggle their first year in college. Or they can lose academic momentum altogether to continue with their education.

About 10 years ago, there was a push by experts to energize students in the senior year. But little came of those reform talks.

Some states nevertheless have passed laws in support of a more rigorous senior year. In some places, districts are encouraged to offer college-level courses in high school or on nearby community college campuses. Other alternatives include requiring senior research projects, promoting internships, and offering independent study.

(For a full story and detailed examples, click here.)

On Tuesday, June 26, from 2-3 p.m., I will be moderating a free online chat on the topic, The Senior Slump: How to Keep Students Motivated.

Joining me will be Michael W. Kirst, professor emeritus, School of Education, Stanford University and president of the California school board. Kirst authored a report in 2000 that recommended schools reclaim the senior year as a time for serious academic engagement and work more closely with colleges to promote a clear pathway beyond high school.

My other guest will be Jim Riordan, director of guidance at Cherry Hill public schools, Cherry Hill, N.J. His school offers students a chance to earn credit outside of traditional seat time through the state’s Option Two program. Some high school seniors enroll in dual-enrollment courses at Camden Community College, take classes online, have part-time jobs, or arrange internships with local employers.

We welcome your questions and look forward to a good discussion tomorrow. No special equipment other than Internet access is needed to participate in any of our text-based chats. Participants may begin submitting questions Tuesday morning.

A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.