Luba Vangelova of KQED News writes about The Independent Project at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington, MA:
The 2010 pilot involved eight students — sophomores, juniors and seniors — chosen on the basis of written applications and interviews. “The idea was that it was for students who could manage their time well, were looking for something more than the traditional program, and had a passion for learning,” says [guidance counselor MIke] Powell, who served as the group’s primary adviser. Academic performance didn’t matter — the group included straight-A students as well as students who were failing many of their classes. The group was fairly diverse in other ways, too, with the students hailing from a range of blue-collar and white-collar family backgrounds.
Though not without a few bumps along the way, the pilot was a success:
At the end of the semester, “everyone was satisfied – the parents, the students, and the school,” Powell says. The project’s “White Paper” notes that parents “were very aware of what was going on in the program because the kids were talking about school at home much more than they ever had in the past.”
“There were so many moments where you could see students being inspired,” Powell says. “And they learned that with that much control comes a great deal of responsibility, to manage time and be accountable.”
The Independent Project continues, as does its positive effect on the students who choose to participate:
Students who have gone through the program ask more questions and have a greater awareness of how to answer them; construct their questions more carefully; became more thoughtful in the way they consider ideas and evaluate sources; and became better at managing their time.
The “White Paper” also notes that the project instills a “sense of ownership of their education has stayed with the students long after the program ended. Although some students have continued to struggle academically, feedback from parents has suggested that they are pursuing more interests outside of school than they were before The Independent Project.”