Forbush wants to cut credits to graduate

Reducing requirements may help students get diploma, officials say

January 14, 2007|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,[Sun Reporter]

The Carroll County Board of Education is considering a request that would reduce the graduation requirements for students who attend the Forbush School, a nonpublic school for Carroll students with significant mental, behavioral or emotional challenges. If the board approves the change, Carroll students at the Towson campus would need only 21 credits to graduate, instead of the 25 required by county public schools. It could also save money -- namely, the average $50,000 per year for each student in nonpublic schools.

"These children have a difficult enough time completing school in four years, let alone meeting the 25-credit" requirement, said Stephany Savar, the school system's director of special education. "We didn't want to look at this as a reduction in expectation. ... It's still meeting state criteria."

Linda Barton, a consulting teacher for nonpublic placements, said the schools tend to operate on schedules different from the local system, which can make meeting its academic standards difficult.

Although Carroll schools run on two-semester calendars, for example, their nonpublic counterparts run a full-year course, Barton said. In addition, students at schools like Forbush "tend to be reluctant school kids," Savar said.

If they've been at school for four years and still aren't able to graduate, she said, some could become overwhelmed and quit.

"We have had students who opt to drop out," Savar said, trying for their GED instead. "It's certainly not going to help them in their future endeavors and their careers, and we want to do everything possible to help keep those kids in school."

Reducing credits could relieve some pressure on the students, said Barton, who said about 12 county students attend Forbush.

"You're not going to be able to learn if you're not in an emotional state to learn," she said.

Forbush's request comes a little more than a year after state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick sent a letter to local districts explaining the flexibility within requirements that nonpublic students meet their local school systems' graduation criteria.

The letter had been sent after some systems asked for more guidance when it came to students in nonpublic special-education schools, said Carol Ann Baglin, assistant state superintendent, division of special education and early-intervention services.

Nonpublic students can seek an alternative program for high school diplomas, as long as it is "an acceptable equivalent to the normal graduation requirements ... of local school systems," Baglin said.

The school system "would have to feel that those 21 credits that Forbush offered is an acceptable standard," she said.

Nonpublic students would have to fulfill the other diploma requirements, such as taking the Maryland High School Assessments.

Last Wednesday, the school postponed a vote on the matter. Board Vice President Cynthia L. Foley and member Thomas G. Hiltz said they wanted more information on the impact the 25-credit requirement had on Forbush students.

But board President Gary W. Bauer and member Patricia W. Gadberry said they were in favor of the measure.

"These kids are getting intensive services," Gadberry said. As long as they can reach 21 credits, that is "more important than worrying about four extra credits."

Bauer expressed a similar sentiment.

"I have no problem with it," he said. "Those kids are dealing with a lot [more] issues than just the academics."

arin.gencer@baltsun.com

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