Maryland's "report card" for Howard County indicates that one in four members of the Class of 1991 was unprepared either for a career or entry into the University of Maryland, an impression county school officials say is misleading.
The tallies show that 69.4 percent of last year's county graduates met the high school course requirements for entry into the University of Maryland system and 6.2 percent had completed an approved occupational program.
County school officials point out that the information doesn't include students entering community colleges or four-year colleges withdifferent entrance requirements or those who plan to enter military service.
"Clearly, we don't find ourselves with students, for wantof a better word, on the streets after graduation," said Donald E. McBrien, director of pupil services.
Ronald A. Peiffer, chief of the state education department's local liaison office, defended the information on graduates as a picture of "how many students are getting a pretty fair preparation for college and how many are leaving certified that they can go out and get a job."
The students outside those numbers are usually going through high school on the general track,accumulating graduation credits, but without a specific plan, Peiffer said.
Local guidance counselors concede that some students graduate without specific plans, but they say the numbers are much smallerthan the report card indicates.
The report for Mount Hebron High School shows 71.5 percent of 1991 graduates prepared to enter any of the 11 campuses in the University of Maryland system, while another 4.9 percent had an approved occupational program certificate -- leaving 24.6 percent without apparent plans.
The school's guidance staffreport shows 59 percent of last June's 265 graduates headed for four-year colleges or universities, 25 percent to two-year colleges, 11 percent to full-time jobs, 1 percent to military service, leaving 4 percent undecided, traveling or attending high school in a foreign country.
"Our main job is to give students as many options as possible," guidance counselor David Greenberg said. Counselors can give students interest inventory tests, encourage them to try the School of Technology or urge them to attend community college to give themselves more time, he said.
"We do what we can," Greenberg said, adding that there are going to be some students who graduate without a career plan.
Countywide data for the Class of 1990, the most recent available, show 59 percent entering four-year colleges or universities; 19 percent, two-year colleges; 18 percent, full-time jobs or no plans reported; 3 percent, trade or technical school; and 1 percent, militaryservice.
School board student associate Jamie Kendrick says she would like to see more flexibility. Tracks force students to choose inninth or 10th grade, he said.
"Those in the middle (between vocational and college-preparatory) -- it's not that they're not prepared for anything, it's that they're not prepared for anything specific," she said.
Peiffer said the graduation information, which will be used to grade school systems next year, is intended to help local school districts figure out whether they have large numbers of students falling through the cracks.
Critics point out a student might qualify for admission to an excellent school such as Stanford University, which does not require a foreign language, but not for University of Maryland, which requires one year of a foreign language.
Peiffer said the University of Maryland system was chosen as a measure becauseits requirements are fairly comprehensive and most local school districts already collect data on the number of their graduates attending.