Schools give OK to more credits

26, rather than 22, will be required to graduate

Superintendent approved plan

Board also signs off on Middle Years program

Anne Arundel

October 21, 2004|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

The Anne Arundel County school board voted last night to endorse a recommendation to increase the number of academic credits needed for high school graduation from 22 to 26.

Six of the eight school board members voted in favor of the recommendation that had been made by a committee of educators, parents and students, and approved by Superintendent Eric J. Smith.

As a result, students entering high school next year will need a total of four of those credits in math, one in physical education and 8.5 in electives such as art and music in order to receive a diploma.

That represents an additional one credit of math, an extra half-credit of gym and 2.5 additional elective credits.

The board did not support an amendment by member Eugene Peterson to increase the graduation requirements for physical education to 1.5 credits. Peterson offered scientific evidence regarding rising obesity rates, but it did not sway his colleagues.

School system officials will also offer a study skills course as well as a basic and advanced personal finance class that will be open to all high school students. Both finance classes will count as half-credits of mathematics.

Board member Paul G. Rudolph was the lone dissenter, with Peterson abstaining.

Under the 22-credit system, Rudolph said earlier this week, students could complete requirements in three years and pursue other opportunities. "I see nothing wrong with being able to graduate in three years," he said.

Two parents of children in the school system asked the board not to endorse the new graduation requirement policy because parents hadn't received enough information about it. They also expressed concerns over scheduling.

School board members also voted in favor of initiating the middle school component of the International Baccalaureate program at Annapolis Middle School and Old Mill Middle North.

The Middle Years program would prepare children for the International Baccalaureate program, a course of advanced study used in more than 1,400 schools worldwide. The middle schools are feeders to Old Mill and Annapolis high schools, which started using the program last year.

The program is estimated to cost more than $3 million, total, over the next five years. The funding is subject to review through the budget process, however.

As a result of the board's vote, the school system now will submit an application to the International Baccalaureate Organization and prepare to implement the program at the two middle schools.

Teachers also attended the meeting to talk about an increased workload because of new testing mandates and educational initiatives.

"Teachers want to do a good job, but when working conditions make that impossible, young teachers leave and senior teachers leave as soon as possible," said Sheila Finlayson, president of the teachers union.

Julia Pruchniewski, an English teacher at South River High, waved a white flag as a sign of defeat, stating that she planned to retire Feb. 1, the first day she will be eligible to do so.

"I have been defeated by an increasing workload and a decrease in time to do it," Pruchniewski told the board.

Board members also heard a report about the process of establishing charter schools in Anne Arundel.

Organizations behind three prospective schools have submitted materials to the school system: Chesapeake Science Point would provide science and technology education for middle and high school students; Light Public Charter School would promote character education for 500 children from kindergarten to high school; and KIPP Harbor Academy would target middle-schoolers who would be first-generation college graduates.

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