Walden III’s Rite of Passage Experience (ROPE)

All seniors must demonstrate mastery in fifteen areas of knowledge and competence by completing a portfolio, a project, and six other presentations before a ROPE committee consisting of staff members (including the student’s home room teacher), a student from the grade below, and an adult from the community. Nine of the presentations are based on the materials in the portfolio and the project; the remaining six presentations are developed especially for the presentation process.

The Portfolio
The portfolio, developed during the first semester of the senior year, is intended to be “a reflection and analysis of the graduating senior’s own life and times.” Its requirements are:

  1. A written autobiography, descriptive, introspective, and analytical. School records and other indicators of participation may be included.
  2. A reflection on work, including an analysis of the significance of the work experiences for the graduating senior’s life. A resume can be included.
  3. Two letters of recommendation (at minimum) from any sources chosen by the student.
  4. A reading record including a bibliography, annotated if desired, and two mini-book reports. Reading test scores may be included.
  5. An essay on ethics exhibiting contemplation of the subject and describing the student’s own ethical code.
  6. An artistic product or written report on art and an essay on artistic standards for judging quality in a chosen area of art.
  7. A written report analyzing mass media: who or what controls mass media, toward what ends, and with what effects. Evidence of experience with mass media may be included.
  8. A written summary and evaluation of the student’s course work in science/technology; a written description of a scientific experiment illustrating the application of the scientific method; an (with examples) on social consequences of science and technology; and in modern society.

The Project
Every graduating senior must write a library research-based paper that analyzes an event, set of events, or theme in American history. A national comparative approach can be used in the analysis. The student must be prepared to field questions about both the paper and an overview of American history during the presentations, which are given in the second semester of the senior year.

The Presentations
Each of the above eight components of the portfolio, plus the project, must be presented orally and in writing to the ROPE committee.

Six additional oral presentations are also required. For these, however, no written reports or new products are required by the committee. Supporting documents or other forms of evidence may be used. Assessment of proficiency is based on the demonstration of knowledge and skills during the presentations in each of the following areas:

    1. Mathematics knowledge and skills is demonstrated by a combination of course evaluations, test results, and work sheets presented before the committee, and by the ability competently to field mathematics questions asked during the demonstration.
    2. Knowledge of American government should be demonstrated by discussion of the purpose of government; the individual’s relation to the state; the ideals, functions, and problems of American political institutions; and selected contemporary issues and political events. Supporting materials can be used.
    3. The personal proficiency demonstration requires the student to think about an organize a presentation about the requirements of adult living in our society in terms of personal fulfiUment, social skills, and practical competencies; and to discuss his or her own strengths and weaknesses in everyday living skiUs (health, home economics, mechanics, etc.) and interpersonal relations.
    4. Knowledge of geography should be demonstrated in a presentation that covers the basic principles and questions of the discipline; identification of basic landforms, places, and names; and the scientific and social significance of geographical information.
    5. Evidence of the graduating senior’s successful completion of a physical challenge must be presented to the ROPE committee.
    6. A demonstration of competency in English (written and spoken) is provided in virtually all the portfolio and project requirements. These, and any additional evidence the graduating senior may wish to present to the committee, fulfill the requirements of the presentation in the English competency area.

(The above is drawn from the 1984 student handbook, “Walden III’s Rite of Passage Experience,” by Thomas Feeney, a teacher at Walden III, an alternative public school in Racine, Wisconsin. Preliminary annotations are by Grant Wiggins.)