Making a Difference CARROLL COUNTY

August 19, 1993

In a large organization such as the Carroll County education system, it is easy to forget that individuals do matter. The retirement of Donald Vetter, the social studies supervisor in the Carroll school system, seems an appropriate occasion to point out the difference one person can make in a large bureaucracy.

Mr. Vetter is one of the 46 people retiring from the Carroll County public school system. All of these people have contributed in their own way to the education of the community's youth -- from teachers who instructed students to cafeteria workers who prepared lunch.

But Mr. Vetter, who is reluctant to call attention to himself, deserves special mention for the lasting improvements he made to the county's social studies curriculum during his 23 years as an administrator.

When Mr. Vetter assumed responsibility for the program, he discovered that there weren't any goals. He then surveyed teachers, administrators and even students to find out what they expected from social studies. With the help of a committee, Mr. Vetter and a group of teachers developed a curriculum that outlined the skills students would be expected to master each year, such as thinking critically and reading tables and charts.

Since Carroll's ninth-grade students consistently outshine the rest of the state in the Maryland citizenship exams each year, Mr. Vetter's approach must work.

He also discovered that some students were bored with traditional courses -- such as world history -- but were very enthusiastic about psychology, black history and women's issues. Mr. Vetter created a system of nine-week elective courses that has been extremely popular among high school students.

In recent years, with the help of Junior Achievement and local businessmen, the schools added a ninth-grade economics course that calls for the students to form a company, create a product, market it, sell stock and then disband the company.

While the on-going debate in Carroll over the value of "exit outcomes" has been focused on a number of extraneous and irrelevant issues, a generation of county students and their parents can thank Mr. Vetter for his perceptive insight that students work better when specific standards are established.

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