Carroll asks what pupils should know Schools solicit public comment

November 11, 1992|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

The challenge comes with an invitation:

If you're an employer or parent who has ever complained about the quality of Carroll County schools, now is your chance to do something about it, says Superintendent R. Edward Shilling.

The Board of Education is about to approve a set of standards -- "outcomes" -- for what students should know and be able to do by the time they graduate.

"I really want the community to step up and define what those things are," Mr. Shilling said.

More than 700 teachers, administrators, parents, students, business people and community leaders already have spent the past few months drafting seven broad standards that they term essential outcomes of a good education.

The public may comment on the list in writing or in person at a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18 in Room 271 at the Board of Education Headquarters, 55 N. Court St. in Westminster.

The list is more far-reaching than a set of graduation requirements, said Gary Dunkleberger, director of curriculum. At every level, from kindergarten up, student performance will be measured against these standards, he said.

The current list says the three most critical standards are that students be able to communicate well, have a positive self-concept and be able to identify and solve problems.

The remaining four standards are that students learn to work well with others, continue to learn throughout their lives, create or at least appreciate art and be involved citizens.

While the list can look like a tall order to apply to all children, Mr. Shilling said students will usually rise to meet the expectations schools set for them.

"I still believe we've got too many children going through the motions, smiling their way through school," he said. "You really ultimately will take away the choice of a student to sit through ninth-grade English and say it's OK to get a D."

Instead of just getting the minimum passing grade in their courses, students will have to demonstrate what they know.

Except for one of the standards, all were written to be measurable. The one that is difficult to measure, Dr. Dunkleberger said, is the positive self-concept.

At the "summit" held for about 700 participants from the community, the self-concept outcome was the one most questioned. Some felt the schools had more important things to do than to address that issue.

Others felt it wasn't measurable, which Dr. Dunkleberger concedes may be true. But it's too important to leave out, he said.

"You only have to look at someone who feels really good about themselves, and they're winners -- at everything they do," he said. "If you look at someone who does not feel good about themselves, they struggle."

At the summit, some parents of children who are handicapped worried that they may not be able to meet all the standards.

Harry Fogle, supervisor of special education, said the children still will be treated as individuals, and said most will be able to meet the majority of the standards.

"The bottom line will be, to what degree," he said. "That's going to be based on what an individual's needs are, and what his abilities are."

He said the nationwide trend toward "outcomes-based education" is not unlike what special education already does. He said theorists as far back as 1945 have talked about basing education on what students will need when they get out of school.

The outcomes list is the first step in a plan to improve the schools, Dr. Dunkleberger said. Once the public comments and the school board approves the list in January, the second stage will begin.

Administrators and teachers will translate the outcomes into more specific goals, all the way down to those for a particular course.

In that process, it may be that some courses or parts of courses will be discarded and others added, Dr. Dunkleberger said, which is why community involvement and consensus now are so important.

"We're going to redirect our entire curriculum toward these outcomes," he said. "If they're the wrong ones, and we do a good job of redirecting our curriculum to fit them, we have a terrible mess on our hands."

The document is available from the school offices and has been printed in some school newsletters. Paraphrased here, it proposes that students will be:

* Able communicators who can get the information they need and use it effectively in the face of an ever-expanding body of knowledge. In this outcome, communication includes written, spoken and numerical forms.

* Perceptive problem-solvers who can identify problems, think creatively, use technology and other resources and make decisions.

* Individuals with a positive self-concept who can develop their own strengths, respect others, assume responsibility and express emotions constructively.

* Collaborative workers who can work with others, lead, build consensus and originate ideas to produce marketable products and services.

* Self-directed, lifelong learners who can create personal goals, establish priorities and adapt to a variety of roles in life.

* Innovative producers who can express creativity, support the arts and use new technology creatively.

* Involved citizens who understand the democratic process, can collaborate with others and are responsible consumers.

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