What the Heck is Capstone?

Ringing in the new year here at Ralston Valley High School is a new program called Capstone, where students demonstrate their knowledge of English and math in order to graduate. But, with all the buzz around it, one question still remains: what is it, and why are we doing it?

Capstone was Jefferson County’s choice to show how students are going to demonstrate their knowledge, a requirement students need in order to graduate, and was one of the many choices the county had to choose from, including getting an 18 on the math ACT (19 on the English), a 500 or above for the math SAT with a 600 on English. “You basically have to have a demonstration of knowledge in order to graduate, along with having all 23 credits,” said counselor Jiana Romero. “[Capstone] is kind of like a backup or a security blanket, just in case kids don’t meet the 500 on the SAT.” 

Right now, the math department is meeting this requirement through all geometry classes, a sophomore-level course. Starting next year, the class of 2021 will have to meet the English graduation requirement via English 12.

Students not taking Geometry this year won’t be completing the capstone project, and there seems to be quite some talk about that. “I wish I didn’t have to do this in my math class,” said sophomore geometry student Breana Harney. “I just feel like it’s busywork, even if it’s extra padding just in case I don’t do well on the SAT.” 

But, besides the actual work itself, is there a deeper takeaway from Capstone? Some believe there is, like math department teacher Marina Kottke. “There’s a lot more that students are getting out of this besides the actual work itself,” Kottke said. “Take, for example, the self-direction and personal responsibility category. Students will use this, and most likely have been using this, for most of their working life. If anything, it’s building upon the skills they’ve had since middle school, if not farther back.”

It took a lot of effort to set up the actual project and get to where it is today. And that’s an understatement. “Oh my God, you have no idea. Where do I even begin?” Kottke said. “We took a planning day back in September, and by October we felt confident about setting it up and actually doing it. And we said, ‘Okay, this will be easy.’ But it did not work out that way,” said Kottke. “But, going forward, this process will be easier, or at least I hope.”