Task for class of 2010: Decipher project rules

The idea was to ensure that students leave high school with a better grasp of real life. And starting with the class of 2010, the idea will be a requirement. Every graduate must have completed a long-term project involving the world outside of school.

But now it seems the idea itself may need some remedial help. School districts find the rules fraught with practical problems.

For instance, a key to the project is finding an outside mentor in a student's chosen subject. But school districts say finding such volunteers is proving difficult, especially in rural areas.

Parents and educators say the graduation project mandate is so vague that school districts are applying widely varying interpretations and requirements.

Some schools will grade parts of the project, though the state prefers a pass/fail system. Students are on different timetables for starting their work, depending on where they go to school. Some juniors have begun working on their projects, while others are just learning what's required.

And some parents and school administrators worry that requiring students to complete an ambitious project before they graduate will push up the 30 percent dropout rate.

"It's going to create a barrier for a lot of kids who really don't need those kinds of barriers in their lives," said Michael Gruver, the parent of a Charlotte high school junior.

Gruver, who works for a distribution company, said he was astonished at the complicated instruction manual his daughter brought home from Myers Park High School.

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