Schools Uneasy About State Plans To Tighten Curriculum

September 03, 1991|By Dianne Williams Hayes | Dianne Williams Hayes,Staff writer

Mandatory community service, fewer electives and less flexible course options for students pursuing college or careers are just a few of the changes being proposed by the state Board of Education.

But county school officials hope to sway board members from adopting the plan, fearing it may lead to teacher layoffs in areas being phased out and disrupt the entire school system.

The plan, part of the state's emphasis on preparing students for college or a career track before receiving a high school

diploma, would begin with incoming seventh-grade students in 1993-1994.

Thestate board is slated to vote on the changes Nov. 20. County board members are expected to discuss the proposals during their Wednesday meeting at 9 p.m.

Under the plan, students would be limited to onlytwo electives in four years.

Students in advanced placement and vocational-technical courses, as well as those wanting a full four-year music, art or foreign language curriculum, may have trouble squeezing in even those two.

Graduation requirements would be boosted to 21 credits from 20; Anne Arundel, however, already requires that num

ber. But county students would be left with far fewer options in the classroom: They will have little choice about 19 of the 21 courses.

All four history credits are predetermined: U.S. history, world history, American government and half-credits in economics and geography.

And that isn't all county school officials object to: In science, for example, the two required courses would have to include lab experience, effectively changing the science curriculum.

"It meanswe can't use the standard classroom to teach," said Ken Nichols, administrative assistant to the assistant superintendent for instruction. "It may not mean building additional labs, but it will change the organization within the school building."

A proposal that would allow physical education credit to be earned through participation in interscholastic sports could leave P.E. teachers in the dark.

Courses such as driver's education, which is not among the 19 required credits, or home economics, which is not generally career-related, could be phased out.

School officials say they are stumped by a new requirement for technology education.

"We are having trouble understanding what it means," Nichols said. "We have difficulty understanding what courses fall into that category. This is one of the questions wewill have . . . when we go before the state."

Ron Peiffer, a spokesman for the state Board of Education, said the reaction throughout Maryland has been mixed. As far as the technology education requirement, he does have a definition.

"The career and technology education requirement includes a lot of courses that fall under vocational education," Peiffer said.

"It would be more related to computer science than home economics. They couldn't use that course."

But perhaps most unsettling to county school officials is the plan to require 75 hours of community service between grades seven and 12.

That part of the plan is being modeled after the Atlanta school system, which state officials say has had the requirement since 1984. Students there accumulate the hours from grades six through 12.

"Philosophically, I don't think anyone would come out against it," Arundel Senior High principal Kenneth Catlin said. "But the amount of timethat it will require to organize it is a problem. They are already saying to a young person how to structure their time. Now they are going to say that they must do volunteer service.

"If students are forced, they may not look forward to a lifetime of volunteer service after they graduate," he said.

"There are so many changes. I wonder if, somewhere along the way, we haven't done too much too fast."

The state's proposal comes on the heels of the Maryland School Performance Program, which sets minimum performance standards for students and schools.Under that program, tests are being given in elementary schools for the first time. Schools already are reshaping their curriculums to address demands from the MSPP.

"The pros are that we should demand more from students," Nichols said. "But the negative side is that we may not be meeting the needs of our unique students in advanced placement and vo-tech classes. I'm afraid we will lose the richness of our program."

A public hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 29 at the State Board of Education, 200 W. Baltimore St. in Baltimore.

Parents may be allowed to address the proposal during the meeting. Parents who wish to speak during the meeting should call 333-2202.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.