DSM: Re: Diplomas

From: Ann Ide (ann.ide@rcn.com)
Date: Tue Dec 11 2001 - 20:20:23 EST


Lots of really good points, Dawn. I agree that without objective standards
or standards set by the student, it could be very problematic and confusing.
Even your reponse to me was a good one! The point I was trying to get
across was that we are only that which we create others to think of us. We
create our public identity by the responses we elicit from others .
Communication is the reponse you get and so on. I was seeing the process of
convincing the Assembly as similar to this. Your probably right that not
many of us have to do this with 50-75 all at once. But I think it is still
a valuable skill.

Ann
----- Original Message -----
From: Dawn Harkness <dawn@harkness.net>
To: <discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org>
Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2001 5:43 PM
Subject: DSM: Diplomas

> I have been following the discussion on the value of a diploma with
> interest, and would like to add my perspective. I have attended most of
the
> thesis defenses presented in the last seven years at SVS.
>
> The SVS diploma stands for one thing only: that a sufficient majority of
> Assembly members felt that "the student adequately defended the thesis
that
> s/he has taken responsibility for preparing him/herself to be an effective
> adult in the larger community". Most of the time, students who want to be
> granted the diploma do everything right, meet the deadlines, file their
> motions with the Assembly, adequately defend their written thesis, and
> receive the required majority of votes (75%) and ultimately get the
diploma.
> Sometimes students don't get diplomas because they fail to meet a deadline
> or fail to file the appropriate motion with the Assembly, thereby failing
> the few objective standards we have in the diploma granting process, and
I'm
> fine with that. However, just about every year there is at least one
> student who will fail to get a diploma because they did not convince
enough
> of the Assembly that they have in fact prepared themselves as required by
> our diploma policy. It's not that they didn't convince anybody that they
> had prepared themselves, it's that they didn't convince enough folks. The
> problem for me has been that over the years it has become increasingly
clear
> that each and every Assembly member has their own subjective view of what
it
> means to have adequately prepared oneself to be an effective adult in the
> larger community. Therefore, it is unavoidable that we impose our values
> and biases on the student in the course of our evaluation.
>
> For example, we have Assembly members who will never vote against a
student
> receiving a diploma no matter what the circumstances are. They do not
feel
> qualified or comfortable judging anyone else. There are Assembly members
> who feel strongly that if one hasn't obtained a drivers' license, or at
> least taken the first steps towards getting one, that this is evidence
that
> the person has not adequately prepared themselves. How can you be
effective
> as an adult if you can't get from place to place in a community that
doesn't
> have a public transportation system? I know one Assembly member who
places
> great emphasis on what classes, if any, a student has taken at SVS,
> especially if the student asserts that they are intending to attend
college
> in the next year or so. How effective can you be in college if you
haven't
> taken any classes or written anything other than a thesis? At least one
> Assembly member has been clear that if a student has been suspended within
> the last year for harming someone else, and fails to take full
> responsibility for their actions, they will not get that Assembly member's
> vote. How can you be an effective adult if you haven't even managed to
> learn not to assault your schoolmates within the past year? I know this
is
> only anecdotal and I don't have any empirical evidence to support my
theory,
> but I think it is fair to assume that each Assembly member has their own
> particular biases in this area and that's what we base our decisions on
when
> we cast our individual votes. This makes the SVS diploma standard very
> subjective and Assembly votes are largely dependent on who shows up to
> thesis defenses and Assembly meetings.
>
> For the most part I have found myself voting with the majority of the
> Assembly, so predictably, I agreed with the Assembly's evaluation. A few
> times I have been surprised by the margins of votes, and it made me wonder
> what others saw in a candidate that I did not see. There have been a few
> times I have been surprised and saddened when a student did not receive
> enough votes for the diploma. These cases raised many questions for me
> regarding the fairness of our process. How fair is it if a student
> convinces some but still not the 75% of Assembly members ultimately
required
> to be granted a diploma when there is no objective standard with which to
> evaluate the student? I am not accusing anyone of intentionally acting
> unfairly, but I am questioning the value of our collective biases in
> addition to questioning my own individual biases.
>
> I am interested to learn how other schools have been grappling with the
> diploma process, and I'm wondering how you all have dealt with the
problems
> which seem to me to be inherent in adopting subjective standards to
evaluate
> kids. Have you ever had a kid not get a diploma that you personally
thought
> should have gotten the diploma? Have you ever had a kid get a diploma who
> you personally thought should not have gotten a diploma? Has your school
> ever granted a diploma and then had the kid return to school for the next
> year, in a way signifying that the Assembly got it wrong when they thought
> they had prepared themselves to go out into the larger community? When
one
> of these scenarios occurs at SVS, it makes me question if we couldn't come
> up with a better system of evaluation for the diploma.
>
> P.S. I'd have to disagree with Ann when she wrote: Also, this sort of
> interactive evaluation seems like good preparation for the outside world
> (and those college and job interviews!).
>
> The SVS thesis process does not resemble any kind of job or school
interview
> I have ever been part of. I think getting a job or getting into college
is
> much easier than getting an SVS diploma, and being challenged and
evaluated
> by a committee of 50 to 75 people often in front of your extended family
is
> usually not part of the process.
>
> Dawn Harkness
>
>
>
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