Starting again during the 2018-2019 school year after suspicions of inflated graduation rates, PGCPS high schools, including Parkdale, reintroduced the AVP projects as a way to help seniors graduate accurately.
According to the Maryland State Department of Education, “the bridge plan for academic validation provides a process that helps ensure all student have a fair opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills if traditional assessments are not effective measures for the students.”
In order to receive an Academic Validation Plan (AVP) project, students must have failed a Maryland high school assessment, typically PARCC, at least twice. While some students were not able to meet the passing score on one test on its own, the alternative option to meeting the assessment graduation requirement is getting a combined score of 1450 between the PARCC English 10 and PARCC algebra 1. Those who received the AVP projects did not meet either of these requirements. In total, 630 projects were released this school year.
Ms. Cathy Ray, the AVP coordinator at Parkdale, feels that despite students’ reluctance, testing and project requirements for graduation are necessary.
“We live in a competitive world and taking tests are just a part of that,” said Ms. Ray. We take tests to see if we are knowledgeable.”
Many students working on the AVP project, including the English, math and history teachers who are assisting them, are finding that they are not easy to complete. For the English project in particular, students are required to do a number of tasks, including reading a short story and writing two essays.
Almost every morning, Parkdale principal Dr. Graves-Henderson makes it a point to announce that the deadline for AVP project submission is quickly approaching, an announcement that may leave some working on the project quite stressed.
“I honestly feel stressed and overwhelmed,” said senior Xochitl Carino, who is in the process of completing an AVP project. “I have two jobs and [I’m] missing class to try to finish my project and knowing if I don’t finish I won’t graduate. On top of that I gotta worry about my grades [and get in] everything on time to graduate. Everything is stressful to only be thinking about not graduating.”
Carino, like many others, is feeling negatively because just like every other senior, they want to graduate and be done with school in order to move on and do something “bigger and better.” In Carino’s words, many students feel “trapped.”
Stress could also be one of the reasons that so many students failed to meet some of the graduation requirements for Maryland in the first place.
“I do think some students have anxiety when it comes to test taking,” said Ms. Ray. “I also think that students may not have practiced enough before taking the exams. Practice will actually take away some of the anxiety.”
Although it is too late to worry about if students were properly prepared for the PARCC assessments, Parkdale teachers, testing coordinators and Ms. Ray have made a number of opportunities available for students who still have work to do.
For example, every Saturday for the past four weeks, teachers have taken time off their own personal time to come to school and help students complete their projects. They have also held boot camps during the school day from 8am to 2pm for those students who are very close to finishing. Twelfth grade English teacher Mr. Dummit has also used his planning period to help ESOL students work on their projects so it can be turned in and graded by the March 11 deadline.
“Well, it is a concern but I do the my very best to ensure that students get the opportunity to meet their graduate requirements through AVP,” said Ms. Ray. “I get as much of a feeling of accomplishment as the students do when they successfully complete a project.”
At the time of publication, majority of the AVP projects have been completed and submitted for review.