The Carroll County Board of Education proposed yesterday increasing graduation requirements and granting high school credit for high school courses offered in middle school.
Board members and administrators say both measures would raise the bar in secondary schools and increase the likelihood that students would take challenging courses up to graduation, rather than slacking off in the final semester of their senior year.
The board hopes to receive comments and input from parents, students and teachers before voting on the proposals at its meeting Sept. 13.
"This is a substantial change from what we're doing now," board President Susan W. Krebs said at yesterday's board meeting. "We're ensuring an increase in the vigor for high school students, not just leaving it up to them to decide."
The board is considering raising the number of required credits from the state minimum of 21 to 25 - a standard that about 95 percent of the county's students meet. For now, the additional requirements would not be directed to specific subject areas.
"At this point, we think this is a big enough leap for us to take ... ," said Gregory Eckles, director of high schools. "But this probably isn't the end of increasing graduation requirements."
To be awarded a high school diploma in Carroll County, students must earn a minimum of 21 credits, including four in English; three each in social studies, science and math; one each in physical education, fine arts and technology; one-half in health; and either two in a foreign language or advanced technology or completion of a state-approved career and technology program.
Students can earn a maximum of 32 credits in high school.
Carroll's requirements mirror those set by the Maryland State Board of Education, but principals and administrators in recent months have contemplated raising those minimums to nudge students toward more challenging classes. Several counties, including Frederick, Montgomery and Talbot, have increased their requirements from state minimums.
Under the proposed changes, Carroll students also would be required to complete a career and technology program or meet the course prerequisites for admission to University of Maryland institutions. They are four credits of English, three credits of social studies (government, U.S. history and world history), three credits of math (algebra I, algebra II and geometry), three credits of science (including at least two lab experiences), two foreign language credits and six academic electives.
Ninth-graders would be required to take freshman seminar, a nine-week orientation course that focuses on study skills, decision-making skills, time management, career interests and the development of a four-year educational plan and a professional portfolio.
All students would be required to earn six career-focused credits and complete an approved "culminating activity," such as a portfolio presentation or a senior project.
If approved, the graduation requirement changes would go into effect for students entering ninth grade in the 2002-2003 school year.
The board also is considering allowing middle school pupils who take high school courses, such as Algebra I and Spanish I, to earn high school credit. The grade would become part of students' high school transcripts and would be included in their high school grade point average calculation.
The change is widely supported by middle school principals, who are eager to offer more challenging courses, and somewhat less enthusiastically recommended by high school principals, who fear a dilution of the high school curriculum.
While expressing support for the concept, which was first discussed at the board's work session March 28, the school board disagreed about whether this year's eighth-graders should be allowed to receive the high school credits and whether the high school-level courses taken in middle school should reduce the number of credits a student needs to graduate.