Diploma Program | The Open School

Diploma Program

Our goal is to create independent, responsible, and compassionate people who know themselves. The school is a space to practice self-direction and interest-led learning, and our diploma program codifies this organic process so that each student creates a self-designed curriculum incorporated into these four developmental challenges, culminating in a final presentation.

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We know that not every student at The Open School will have the same learning journey. However, for those students who want to earn a diploma from The Open School, there are specific requirements that must be fulfilled. These requirements have been carefully designed to provide ample freedom and flexibility for self-directed learners with a wide variety of personalities, abilities, and interests, and are aligned with the values of the school and our beliefs about adult readiness.

Every student at The Open School has an adviser (a staff advocate) chosen by the student. This adviser works alongside the student, building a relationship with him, delving into her passions, guiding him through the democratic processes and possibilities of The Open School, and more. The adviser will also play an integral role in the diploma process, and as the student becomes ready to begin the process, he/she will work closely with the adviser to develop a personalized plan, which will be fully customizable and flexible to fit the student’s unique journey.

The Open School Diploma Program is a two-year program and consists of three parts:

  1. The Passages
  2. Democratic Contribution
  3. Reflection on Adult-Readiness, Personal Growth, and Learning

Eligibility for the Diploma Program includes the following:

  1. Attendance at TOS for at least one year prior to beginning Passages
  2. Advisor/Advisee agreement of readiness
  3. Minimum 17 years old

The Passages

Inspired by rites of passage seen in cultures around the world, the Passages are the final phase of The Open School program in which each student demonstrates readiness to transition to adulthood by completing a series of unique experiences that are linked to the student’s interests, passions, and talents.  The Passages are personally challenging projects developed and completed by each student to show their ability to apply skills in the real world. This is a minimum two-year program, and is mandatory for any student seeking a diploma from The Open School. In each year of their Passages, students must successfully complete an experience in each of the THREE passage areas. That means that a total of at least SIX passages will be successfully completed by graduation.

  1. Self-Direction Passage – Internship, Apprenticeship, Entrepreneurship, or Community Activism/Service
  2. Courage Passage – Travel, Adventure, or Physical Challenge
  3. Responsibility Passage – Practical Skills and/or Dependent Skills Development

Democratic Contribution

The Open School is a democratic school, modeling on the participatory governance of our country. We believe that democracy works best when informed citizens participate in it, and we strive to graduate students who exercise their voice and their vote.

Because participatory democracy is such an important part of the culture of The Open School, we believe that students must make significant contributions to the school democracy in order to meet graduation requirements. Contribution will be demonstrated in at least one of the following ways:

  1. Exceptional participation in School Meeting
  2. Chairpersonship of committee
  3. Membership and regular participation in at least 2 committees

Reflection on Adult-Readiness, Personal Growth, and Learning

Expressed in a prepared, formal way, students will reflect upon their personal, social, and intellectual growth as it pertains to the adult-readiness inventory, taking into consideration their experiences of the past years, including (but not limited to) the passages they completed. Evidence, in addition to reflection, is an important component of the presentation. This will be very personalized, and may include a portfolio, performance, photo album, skills demonstration, or anything else that provides confirmation of the student’s readiness for their next step as a young adult.

This reflection and presentation is given in front of a diploma committee, which is made up of members of the wider community, including professionals and educators from outside of The Open School. This process is much like a dissertation defense, where the student will be expected to answer questions from the committee about their presentation and readiness for the world outside of school. The  decision of whether to award a diploma will be based on our adult-readiness inventory. This inventory includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • Independence
  • Leadership
  • Creativity
  • Problem Solving
  • Collaboration
  • Compassion
  • Community and Global Awareness
  • Practical skills set
  • Goal setting and keeping
  • Metacognition and self-knowledge
  • Self-direction
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Courage