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Student designed, student led, and student accomplished

June 29, 2022

By Layla Bowen ’23, Anjali Gururaj ’23, Thamina Hoque ’23, Aishlinn Parrinello ’23, Jackson Rafferty ’23, and Sophia Scampolino ’23

Cheshire Academy celebrates individual voice and choice as students chart their own course throughout this learning community. CA’s focus was no clearer than through the work of six students who designed the complete final assessment for themselves and for their peers. 

From May 31 through June 1, students in year one of IB English A: Language & Literature showcased their final group exhibitions, which comprised an essay, a visual art piece, a performing art piece, and a series of process reflections that all addressed the essential question, “How does language function to comment on social issues?” Unlike other final demonstrations of learning across other courses during this final week of the school year, this visionary project was the sole creation of students nominated for a special committee, whose purpose was to design what all students across three sections of the course would complete. 

Months ago in February when the CA campus was still covered with snow, all 45 students in the course nominated two classmates, one student completing the course at the standard level and one student completing the course at the higher level. These students would come together as a committee and create the project. Students nominated the two students in their section that they felt would represent their section and create a final project that would not only express what the students had learned throughout the first year of the IB course but would also be fun and creative. This committee comprising Layla Bowen ’23, Anjali Gururaj ’23, Thamina Hoque ’23, Aishlinn Parrinello ’23, Jackson Rafferty ’23, and Sophia Scampolino ’23 would soon be known as the Student Assessment Design Committee and would eventually begin meeting once every week before school for months to begin working hard to create the final exhibition. All were excited to design something that they felt students would enjoy.

During this period, the Committee members met consistently to plan out each part of this project. Though the Committee agreed that they wanted the focus of the project to be social issues, each committee member had the chance to pitch their ideas for specific aspects of the project, leading to several heated and generative brainstorming sessions. 

Once the Committee had collectively agreed on what it wanted the project to look like, they began to devise an in-depth outline of exactly what the exhibition would entail. This included an explanation of the purpose and expectations of the project, a detailed description of each component, a breakdown of the class time that would be devoted to working on this project, a description of their vision for what the actual exhibition would look like, and in-depth scoring guides for each component. Over the course of several weeks, this outline was revised several times to perfect the vision for the exhibition and to provide students with as many opportunities for success as possible. To that end, Committee members also devised a thorough, IB-style scoring guide for the project. It was vital for the Committee to present students with an outline that would calm any nerves about the project and give students specific guidelines for what each component should be, including how their work would be assessed. During this time, many of the group’s original ideas were revised and reconstructed in order to provide students with opportunities to showcase their learning without having to spend an excessive amount of time working on this project, given the other rigors of the end of the year. 

Before presenting the outline to students, two Committee committee members created a presentation for Allison Bass-Riccio, chair of the English Department. The presentation included a summation of everything included in the outline. After a 30-minute presentation, the final exhibition was approved, and Bass-Riccio voiced her support, stating, “The Committee worked to ensure their fellow students would understand every aspect of the assignment and tried to create a climate of excitement around it,” adding how at that time she was “looking forward to seeing the project come to fruition.” 

On the day of the big reveal, students individually viewed the outline, drafting questions and inquiries they had based on the presented scoring guide. After that, the two Committee members for their respective sections reiterated the outline and gave extra insight to the class about the upcoming final assessment, going into more depth about the components and creating a more abstract vision for the schedules for each group. Details offered by the Committee allowed students to have more creative freedom when it came to the planning phases, but enough structure in order to produce an effective representation of all the skills that were taught throughout the year. 

Once Committee members presented the project to the classes and the groups were formed within the classes, students took it upon themselves to devise an outline that would work best for their groups. The outline presented by the Committee included eight class periods solely dedicated to the final project. This allowed for over eight hours of class time dedicated to the project to ensure that students would not have to work on the project outside of class. Following a trial classroom policy of no homework for the rest of the school year, the Committee encouraged students to utilize the class time given, using the outline to work most effectively. Students worked tirelessly over several weeks to prepare their projects and present them to the class during the exhibition. 

By the time that the final presentations of the exhibitions rolled around, students were eager to share their hard work with their classmates, and the Committee members were looking forward to seeing what started as just a collection of ideas finally come to life. All three exhibitions over three sections of Language & Literatures were successful, with several spoken word performances, originally composed songs, and engaging art pieces presented, while students could put on display their cumulative interpretation and analysis skills that they had gained throughout the year. Students also crafted either a final rhetorical analysis essay or a compare-and-contrast essay, with both writing options focusing on different texts from the year. 

With the conclusion of the final exhibitions and the work of the Committee, the students and the Committee members have had the chance to reflect on this long but worthwhile process. According student DJ Brunelle ’23, “The Committee did an astonishing job designing a project that tested our communication skills. Our ability to connect multiple forms of presentation to each other, while commenting on a modern day social issue, all while allowing us to be creative and have fun collaborating with our classmates and friends.”

Student Artan Redzepi ’23 added that he “expected the best, planned for the worst, and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome of this purposeful exhibition.”

Committee member Aishlinn Parrinello added that “we were given the reins to this project, allowing us to put together this unique final assessment with multiple components reflecting all that we have learned throughout this year. We are all grateful for the opportunity!” Finally, classroom teacher Mr. Matthew Goetz eagerly added, “I continue to be so humbled by what our students are able to accomplish. It’s amazing what they can do when the teacher takes a step back.”