Md. superintendent seeks to stiffen graduation rules

February 27, 1991|By Gelareh Asayesh

State school Superintendent Joseph L. Shilling proposed yesterday that community service become a graduation requirement for Maryland students, who would also be required to take a third year of science and a year each of algebra and geometry.

Currently, students are required to take only two years of science and three years of unspecified math courses to graduate.

The recommendations are Dr. Shilling's response to a state task force report that is expected to culminate this summer in passage of new and tougher graduation requirements starting with incoming ninth graders in the 1992-1993 school year.

Dr. Shilling and the board did not specify what would qualify as community service, though board members said it should add up to a credit -- one year -- of service. Service programs would consist of volunteer work ranging from working at soup kitchens to tackling environmental projects to visiting the terminally ill at local hospitals.

In keeping with the state's philosophy of channeling students eithertoward higher education or work, Mr. Shilling also recommended that students going on to higher education complete two years of a foreign language to graduate. Currently there is no foreign language requirement in Maryland public schools, though many colleges require at least two years of foreign language for admission.

Students planning to start work after high school would be required to complete a state-approved career and technology program in order to graduate.

Undecided students or those interested in both college and work would have the option of completing both the foreign language and the career requirements.

While students on the work track would specialize in career and technology education, college-bound students would no longer be required to take a year of career or vocational education, under the recommendations Dr. Shilling presented to the state board of education yesterday. Currently all students must take a year of such courses -- which can range from typing to gourmet cooking.

The proposals do not affect the total number of credits required for graduation, which remain at 20. The required "core credits" would be as many as 17 for college-bound students -- as compared to the current 15 -- and would affect the number of elective courses students may take. Dr. Shilling also proposed establishing a task force to design new "outcome-based" graduation requirements. That means students would meet requirements by passing tests that measure learning as opposed to completing a certain number of hours of schooling.

The task force would make recommendations by January 1993, with new requirements taking effect with incoming ninth-graders the 1996-1997 school year -- the graduating class of 2000.

And the superintendent proposed abandoning the idea of the standard course credit -- which represents 132 hours of instruction. A credit would instead be defined by local districts or be awarded based on passing tests measuring learning.

The recommendations will be circulated among state superintendents for response and returned for board action in April. A final decision is expected this summer, with the changes taking effect in September.

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