Overhaul of high schools is urged Md. meeting lists goals to prepare students

September 23, 1997|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

Maryland's high schools will have to be overhauled in the next few years to provide the kind of instruction, technology and even flexible scheduling needed to prepare students for 21st-century society, participants at a statewide conference said yesterday.

The high school of 2010 will be smaller, they predicted, with schedules likely to include at-home classes through computer, more work study and students who take as much responsibility for their education as their teachers.

"Workers in the 21st century, at minimum, must be able to read and do math at a high school level, solve problems, work in teams, write and speak effectively, use technology and be prepared to learn throughout their entire lives," said Raymond A. "Chip" Mason, chairman and chief executive officer of Legg Mason and chairman of the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education. "Constant training, retraining, job-hopping, and even career-hopping, will become the norm."

His comments opened the conference of about 400 educators, parents, students, school board members and business people on the future of high schools, held at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Howard County.

Organized by the State Department of Education, the meeting was "just another baby step in terms of what we have to do," to reform high school education to meet the needs of business and society in the next century, said state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick.

For nearly two years, education officials have been working on proposed high school tests in English, math, social studies and science for graduation. The tests will be designed to make students more responsible to change instruction and to raise standards.

State officials have emphasized that the proposed tests are only one part of the larger reform movement coming to high schools.

With hand-held electronic polling equipment, participants dabbled in current technology and gave their opinions on two dozen questions affecting high school curricula, standards and tests.

In one of the first questions of the day, 56 percent said high schools need "a complete overhaul," while 43 percent said they need "minor tuning" and 1 percent said schools should be left alone.

Likewise, 72 percent of the group said the state needs to start now if it intends to have schools where they need to be in 13 years.

Through small-group discussion, educators and others sketched what schools should be like and how they should get there. "We have to somehow get youngsters into smaller groups" for more individualized instruction, said Carmela Veit, president of the Maryland PTA.

Educators repeatedly emphasized that schools must maintain a commitment to basic skills as well as accelerated courses, must teach students how to think and write, appreciate differences among people and discriminate among the flood of information sure to be available through technologies not yet developed.

Participants repeatedly stressed that businesses must get more involved in schools, providing more internships, opportunities for students to learn about professions and grants of money and personnel. State school board member Philip Benzil also called on businesses to have a greater understanding of "their social responsibilities."

Pub Date: 9/23/97

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