Clinton's '13th year' idea praised State educators want to see more detail

February 24, 1993|By Joe Nawrozki and Mark Bomster | Joe Nawrozki and Mark Bomster,Staff Writers Staff writers Frank Lynch, Eric Nelson, Robert Erlandson, Mary Gail Hare and Monica Norton contributed to this article.

Educators and students throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area generally agreed yesterday that President Clinton's idea of adding a 13th year of school for apprenticeships might be a good one.

A Maryland education official cautioned, however, that state and local agencies should not have sole responsibility for such a program. And both the head of the state Board of Education and Baltimore City's school superintendent wanted to see more details.

U.S. Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich announced Monday that as part of a planned apprenticeship program, the president has proposed adding a 13th year of school and setting national graduating standards.

Under the proposal, 13th year students could specialize in one of several broad areas of professional or technical study and complete internships before taking a national examination.

Such a massive undertaking, Mr. Reich said, would need the support of private industry.

Under the Clinton proposal, students after the 10th grade would receive a basic degree certifying their levels in reading, writing and mathematics.

The following two years would emphasize critical thinking and communications skills before students enter a year of professional and technical learning.

Nancy S. Grasmick, state school superintendent, said she supported the idea in its broad outline, but added, "I do not see it as the sole responsibility of local elementary-secondary education agencies."

Dr. Grasmick said any such program also should involve the state's economic development and employment training agencies, and its colleges and universities.

Robert C. Embry Jr., president of the state Board of Education, praised the president for putting worker training on the national agenda. He is waiting to see more details.

"I do love the idea that there needs to be a greater school-to-work link," said Baltimore's superintendent, Walter G. Amprey, who also saw "room for flexibility" in the current 12-year educational system.

"We've got to do a better job of preparing our youngsters for what happens after school," Dr. Amprey said, particularly for those who are not going to college.

"I love it," said Keith Harmeyer, principal of Sparrows Point High School in Baltimore County. "Anything that helps students see which way to go, not just to drift through a general education program, I'm for," he said.

But, he added, the president's goal probably could be accomplished in the current 12-year structure.

Students at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore generally liked the apprenticeship idea, even as they questioned its practicality.

"People would appreciate it, if it were giving us a college credit. But if it didn't, they wouldn't need a 13th year," said Nicole Ross, a 10th-grader.

But Dunbar's principal, Charlotte Wing Brown, praised the idea, saying it would be useful for students who currently leave high school with no career direction.

In Harford County, William M. Ekey, principal of Bel Air High School, said he strongly endorses the proposal.

"Currently, about 80 to 85 percent of our students here go to either a two- or four-year school after graduation. Many of them go because of either peer or parental pressure," said Mr. Ekey.

Beth Mack, a senior at Bel Air High School, said she knows several students who will attend college because their parents insist they do. "Those students will just be wasting their time [in college]," she said.

Tom Miller, director of vocational education for Anne Arundel County, said he was reluctant to endorse the proposal immediately because he disapproves of the federal government dictating policy to local school districts.

But he did say more programs are needed to involve business with students who are not college bound.

In Howard County, at Ellicott City's Centennial High School, freshman Melanie Jeffers welcomed any helpful changes in education.

"If it's going to help you get a job and help you get into college, then I think it's a good idea," the 15-year-old said.

Carroll County educators saw potential in the president's proposal -- they just don't see a need for an additional year.

"We are already doing an apprenticeship program in Maryland," said Peter McDowell, the county's director of secondary schools.

Robert Bastress, principal of Liberty High School in Eldersberg, said "apprenticeship in the 12th year makes more sense."

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