WINGS Program: flying high or ugly duckling?

Simon Wong & Katrina Swan, Opinion Editor & Features Editor

Ugly Duckling

Have you or someone you know been affected by WINGS? If so, you may be entitled to financial compensation.

Just kidding.

You actually don’t get any compensation for the wasted Warhawk Times, meaningless assignments, and sleep-inducing lectures. And to make matters worse, do we even know what the point of it is? I sure don’t. But what have we been told about it?

According to the Madison website, the “MADWings Experience” is a process in which Madison students, from their freshman to their senior year, create a “portfolio” of their best work from all the classes they’ve taken in high school and at the end of each year, they’ll share it in some way. The way the portfolios are shared differs for each class, but the biggest difference is the senior class, who also shares what they did during their internship or passion project at the end of the year.

While this idea might look nice on paper, there’s no feasible way to carry it out, because realistically, there’s no way to do this without wasting student’s time.

“I understand the goals of the program, but unfortunately it’s just too time consuming,”  Nina Howell (‘24) said. “As a junior, once AP exams are over I’ll be starting college applications and studying for next year’s AP classes. The WINGS program feels like a waste of time that I could be spending more productively—also, the instructions have been super vague, I have no idea what’s going on half the time.”

The lack of clarity about WINGS is another huge problem with the program. Students are told to do things, but have no idea how to do them or why they should do them, leaving the program with a negative image among students. Most students find that, in the end, there’s really just no point in doing it. It’s not graded, so many feel it’s a waste of time. The gradebook closes as end of year WINGS activities start, so the presentation of students’ portfolios will take away from their much-needed last few weeks to make up work for their classes and improve their grade before they’re not able to anymore. Perhaps a lesser realized impact of the WINGS program is that it also puts a lot of extra stress on teachers. Only a few teachers have volunteered to be WINGS leaders for each grade, many of them Cross-Curricular Cohort teachers who already have experience with portfolios, and yet all teachers are expected to tell their advisory class what to do for every next step of the process. These issues only exacerbate the stresses that teachers often face at one of the busiest times of the year, the months around and after spring break. Teachers are already worried about cramming the rest of their AP curriculum in before the exam, finishing 3rd quarter grading before (or even during) spring break, and finishing all grading before June 1st, when they can no longer add anything to the gradebook for the rest of the year.

Madison should end the WINGS program for everyone, unless they are seniors who are doing an internship or passion project at the end of the year, as those are actually a valuable use of students’ time.

“I think WINGS could be really amazing for the one kid that actually does it,” London Grant (‘25) said.


Flying High

Believe it or not, teachers and administration want the best for you. WINGS is not assigned to you because adults thought you needed more busy work.

Opportunity is plentiful in the Vienna community. Close proximity to the nation’s capital, thousands of jobs and schools that work tirelessly to give students the best education. WINGS is another opportunity that Madison is providing to improve student’s futures.

“A team of teachers across the departments we were tasked with rethinking the school year,” Derrick Rauenzahn said. “We wanted to reshape the end of the school year so each student could reflect on how they individually grew in and outside of school, and have the ability to share that growth with students and teachers and parents in a low risk environment.”

As someone who works with teachers on WINGS, helps students with their portfolios in the tutoring center, and participates in WINGS, I am a firm advocate for the expanded program. Those who complain school is outdated should celebrate Madison for making an effort to change the way we think about school. Leaders and ambassadors, or WINGS warriors as I like to call them, are working hard to prepare Madison students for their futures.

“In the real world, how do you get a job?” Beth Blankenship said. “You get a job by having a resume and a portfolio that shows about you and your skills and experience”

There are many reasons why you should do WINGS. Yale, Harvard, William & Mary, JMU and other colleges are looking for WINGS-style portfolios as part of their Coalition or Common Application. Your portfolio can help to build a resume or scholarship applications. Madison counselors and teachers will use your Google Site when writing letters of recommendation. And most importantly for many students, those who complete the senior experience will receive a red and black WINGS participation cord at graduation.

“I like WINGS,”  Lillian Atikins (’26) said. “It gives me an opportunity to show what I’ve accomplished this year.”

Your portfolio is not a class, a teacher is not going to hold you accountable to put a picture in your Google Site. It is important to pay attention during auditorium lessons in Warhawk Time, refer to the handbook in Schoology for all information and bring any questions to the Warhawk Tutoring Center. Confusion on the program is understandable—to a certain point. Refusal to self advocate is different. Every resource needed is available, so if you know of them, confusion is just an excuse.

“We’re making sure they have that skill, and the ability to talk about those skills with people like you would in the real world,” Blankenship said.

Yes, WINGS is messy, but most things are when they are new. Madison’s WINGS is a baby who needs to learn how to crawl before it can walk. Madison students should encourage it to become successful instead of kicking it down; because why would you kick a baby?