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If you earn a diploma when you're younger than 18, you gain freedom from the law that compels you to go to high school, you also get out from under the laws that restrict your hours when you work and require you to have a work permit, and you gain independent access to community colleges. (You gain these advantages when you turn 18 just because of your age.)
You can earn a diploma by submitting a portfolio. I'm using the word "portfolio" here to refer to the collection of things you submit, not necessarily to refer to documents enclosed in a fancy leather binding.
Here are two basic combinations of things that can make up your portfolio. Each of the items is explained further on.Write an essay and get a letter of support.
orAnswer four questions and get a letter of support
and submit two other items.
What follows are descriptions of things I'd like you to include in your essay if you write one. If you don't write an essay, please read all of what follows anyway because the essay description tells you more about where I'm coming from and may even give you ideas about what you do want to present.
Include in your essay the following:
You don'thave to write an equal amount about each of these items; focus on those that are most important to you, and give minimal attention to the other topics, but please do cover all of them. You can write about them in any order, and you might wind up writing simultaneously about more than one of them.
I don't want to specify a length, but obviously you can't deal with everything with a total of three sentences. Most students who write an essay need 1500-2000 words to do a thorough job; your essay should be something like this in length. It can certainly be longer, but it shouldn't be a lot shorter.
Do notbelieve that your life isn't interesting or valuable enough to write about. There will never be a valedictorian at Beach High School because I don't believe there is any possible way to decide that one set of accomplishments is more significant than another. Many BHS students who have written essays have won awards and scholarships, traveled extensively, or reached high goals at a young age. But you can write a wonderful essay too, even if you've never won any contest or been publicly recognized in any way and all your friends live within six blocks. A single moment in your life when you've recognized a humble but important truth can be just as important to you as anything else that anyone has ever done. "Any life explored in depth is unique, even extraordinary, and if told at all well anyone's story is unusual." (Charles B. Strozier, Apocalypse,p. 23.)
Once in a while someone writes something like, "I want a diploma so that I can say that I got a good education." This worries me. Your diploma will not come with a pre-packaged education; by itself it will not make you a better-educated person. I mean a BHS diploma to acknowledge and support your belief that you are in a good position to get on with your life without spending additional time in high-school-level classes. I do not think of obtaining a BHS diploma as a significant accomplishment in and of itself. It is significant because it recognizes what you have achieved already and because it puts you in a better position to reach future goals. I intend a diploma to honor who you already are, not to make you into someone else.
Now that I've rambled on for a while, I'll say that what all this comes down to is, Who are you, where are you headed, and why do you believe you'll succeed?
LETTER OF SUPPORT
You must submit one letter supporting your getting a diploma from someone who knows you reasonably well. This person can be a parent, relative, teacher, employer, friend, or anyone else. Your supportive letter writer should (1) explain what his (or her) relationship is to you and state how long he's known you, (2) describe what he sees as your strengths, interests, talents, and accomplishments, and (3) state clearly why he believes you will do well beyond high school and why you deserve a high school diploma. Your letter writer should understand that excerpts from the letter will most likely appear on your transcript. Make sure whoever writes for you knows everything in this paragraph; if necessary, photocopy this paragraph and give it to the person who is supporting you.
Please ask your letter writer to include her or his name in legible form and to sign and date the letter.
You must do some writing for your diploma. If writing isn't one of your strengths, you may answer these four questions instead of writing an essay.
1. Why do you want to be done with high school? If you're older than traditional high school students, this question becomes: Why do you think you'll be successful without having done all the usual classwork of high school?
2. What are your plans for the next few years? You don't have to have everything planned out; just tell me what plans you do have, even if they're very vague.
3. Do you feel you know your own capabilities well? Are you confident in yourself? Are you reasonably certain you can follow through with the plans you wrote about in the previous question?
4. What do you think your diploma should be based on, and why do you think you deserve a diploma?
OTHER ITEMS TO SUBMIT
You must submit one letter of support (see section above). Two additional items are required along with answers to the four questions, and one or both of them can be additional letters of support. If you have an equivalency certificate, earned through the GED or the CHSPE, submit a copy of it as one of your items.
The point of your portfolio is to present yourself and your interests, strengths, talents, accomplishments, and goals. Anything at all can be submitted toward earning your diploma. The basic requirement is to submit a letter of support and two other items along with your answers to the four questions, but if you have, for example, an extensive collection of stunning photographs and you want to become a professional photographer, this with a letter of support would be enough to accompany your answers to the questions. (You are not required to submit anything except a letter of support along with an essay, but you can provide additional items if you want to.).
Here are some other suggestions.
In some cases you will need a transcript that goes beyond the narrative transcript I usually provide. Since you'll tell me about your future plans when you enroll, I'll let you know if you need a more detailed transcript and what you may need to give me to base it on.
When you submit your portfolio, I'll evaluate it and possibly ask for additions or modifications. Most people take their work very seriously and put together a portfolio that is readily acceptable.
You'll receive a framed diploma and three copies of a narrative transcript that includes excerpts from what you've submitted.
Minimal graduation requirements--Why?
Iím often asked a question like, "How are you able to award a diploma on the basis of nothing other than an essay and a letter of support?"
The answer to this very reasonable question has two parts. First, Iím in a legal position to offer a diploma on this basis simply because there are no mandated requirements, in California law or anywhere else, for graduation from a private high school. (California law sets many subject matter graduation requirements for public high schools.)
The second part of the answer is the important part: I will provide a high school diploma to anyone who is able to look me in the eye, outline her (or his) plans for the next few years, tell me sincerely that she has the capacity to pursue these plans to their realization, and then make her claim in some detail in writing. Iím willing to do this because Iíve supported hundreds of kids who have skipped much or all of high school They plunge into their chosen endeavors with confidence and enthusiasm, and they succeed.
I do not believe that formal academic studies are for everyone, but academic goals might appear to be most difficult to reach without preparation in high school. The fact of the matter is that Iíve been able to see no connection between how much time people spend on coursework at the high school level and how well they do in college. People who skip all of high school do as well as people who skip just a year of it. This is the most intriguing lesson Iíve learned in forty years in education.
Since young people are able to succeed without completing traditional high school coursework, I do not require it.
I believe what makes my students successful are personal traits like self-knowledge, confidence, and a sense of autonomy. They skip much or all of high school and find themselves sitting in college classrooms filled mainly with people who have experienced a traditional high school education that, because it is so rigidly prescribed and insistently delivered, has prevented them from making a deeply personal investment in their own learning and thus makes their high school education largely empty. It is this emptiness that my students skip, and their personal sturdiness more than makes up for what little they miss in high school.
If youíd like to read a more extensive discussion of this topic and stories of successful Beach High School students, ask for a printed copy of a long version of this section titled "Beach High Schoolís Graduation Requirements--Why?"
|Copyright 2002, 2004, 2010 Wes Beach. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org|