What Should Students Know and Be Able to Do? One School’ s Requirements

Before graduating from Catalina Foothills High School in Tucson, Arizona students will have to synthesize and personalize their achievement in three broad areas. They must demonstrate their depth of understanding and knowledge, and the ability to apply skills to projects of their own design that make connections among the disciplines.


1. APPLICATION OF SYSTEMS THINKING TO CURRENT PROBLEMS. Drawing on their subject area experiences for problems that may or may not cross disciplinary lines (an environmental problem, say, or an artistic creation), students use diverse material and resources (including technology) to analyze the problem, its context, and aspects of its interdependence from many perspectives. They must project possible outcomes for the problem based on their research, and then justify their choice of the optimum response. Their final presentation must also incorporate reflection on the process of working through the problem. Example: A careful analysis of the current situation in Somalia.

2. PERSONAL CHALLENGE. Students will demonstrate a sustained, intensive effort to achieve a personally established and significant goal (academic, personal, or physical). They present a log of their efforts and assess their own challenges, efforts, and outcomes. Example: A student of German extraction learns the language (not taught at the school) and investigates her family history.

3. MAKING CONNECTIONS. Working in teams, students select concepts that interest them from different areas of study, analyze them, and search for logical connections between them. Their presentation should persuade an audience of the value of the connections, and also analyze the interdependence of the team effort. Example: Take the musical problems in a jazz composition and relate them to the historical development of the jazz form.



To graduate, students must also demonstrate competency in the individual subject areas listed below. The school’ s handout elaborates on each requirement and delineates specific assessment criteria for each. (For example, the first listing under science adds, “Students will be assessed on their ability to apply key information and concepts to various situations, analyze cause and effect, and communicate these findings.”)


  • Conceptual and systemic understanding of the human organism
  • Conceptual understanding of principles and theories of energy
  • Expertise in a specialized field of science
  • Science, technology, and society
  • Science skills
  • Experimental design


  • Critical health issues
  • Personalized fitness plan
  • Individual and team activities


  • Mathematical procedures
  • Conceptual understanding of math content
  • Use of mathematics to synthesize and communicate information
  • Recognition or creation of multiple representations of mathematical ideas
  • Problem-solving
  • Value and awareness of how mathematics brings order to our world


  • Artistic analysis, or
  • Performance and reflective evaluation, or
  • Original work


  • Historical investigation
  • Analysis of current issues
  • Translating understanding into service or action
  • Cultural analysis
  • Synthesis of self
  • Functional citizenship literacy


  • Use of oral language in group tasks
  • Personal response to literature
  • Analysis of literature
  • Reading enrichment
  • Narrative and expository writing
  • Academic writing
  • Workplace writing
  • Oral presentation


  • Intermediate-level reading, writing, speaking, and listening in commonly taught languages, or
  • Novice-level skills in less commonly taught languages


  • Technological literacy
  • Information literacy