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Two Charter Schools Leading the Way in Student Research

Friday, June 21st, 2013

With only 10% of high school students nationwide engaging in major research projects, two D.C. charter schools have instituted mandatory thesis projects for graduating seniors, with fantastic results. These trailblazing schools, both part of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy, require students to write a 12 to 15 page paper on a policy issue before defending before a panel of professionals.

This unique program has yielded complex research topics ranging from euthanasia to fracking to standardized testing. Ayo Magwood, the social studies teacher who runs the program, said that encouraging students to tackle complex constitutional issues “transformed the regurgitating, knowledge–telling, book report thesis presentations of previous years into exciting, insightful, analytical presentations that made even our expert judges on public policy reflect. Students were using constitutional law to analyze public policy, instead of just memorizing and spouting a litany of facts about their topic.”

Students are also seeing the benefits of such a rigorous assignment. Senior Kevin Jamisson said a “thesis was not only an educational experience but also a life lesson in both time management and in being the voice of the community you represent.”

Check out our report, Creating Capital Citizens: Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy and Civic Education, to see how the school incorporated civic learning in their school curriculum.