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Crossing the Stage

Redesigning Senior Year

By Nancy Faust Sizer
Foreword by Rick Lear

"Study shows senior year is wasted."
"Senioritis impacts college students, Stanford report says."
"Senior slump a nationwide problem."

These are among recent headlines attesting to the apathy, absenteeism, and lost opportunity that are widespread among high school seniors—so much so that a National Commission was founded in 2000 to investigate. Nancy Faust Sizer was a prominent member and knows from her twenty-five years of teaching how the quality of the senior year has declined, especially its purpose. She decided to interview a variety of seniors from diverse schools across the country
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"Study shows senior year is wasted."
"Senioritis impacts college students, Stanford report says."
"Senior slump a nationwide problem."

These are among recent headlines attesting to the apathy, absenteeism, and lost opportunity that are widespread among high school seniors—so much so that a National Commission was founded in 2000 to investigate. Nancy Faust Sizer was a prominent member and knows from her twenty-five years of teaching how the quality of the senior year has declined, especially its purpose. She decided to interview a variety of seniors from diverse schools across the country to get their side of the story. Their observations form the core of this book.

As it turns out, senior year is harder than most of us remember. Themes of dishonesty, irony, tradition, expectations, and disillusionment recur throughout these interviews. Yet Sizer sees this period as an opportunity—a time when seniors could devote all or part of their last year to a new kind of study, a serious investigation of a topic of personal interest that could shape short- and long-range habits and future plans. She also sees how schools could adapt seniors' programs to highlight variety and promote a sense of purpose and growth. Using her own and her colleagues' work as a basis, she offers plentiful suggestions for changes both large and small, all of which are adjustable to the reform climate in different schools.

We can't abdicate senior year; we need to redesign it. We need new, more authentic, more impressive academic hurdles and rituals. And we need to bring about a more graceful transition between high school and what follows. Sizer shows how.

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