High school community service stalled


Maryland's bid to become the first state to require community service for high school graduation hit a snag yesterday as some state Board of Education members wondered whether local systems could administer the proposal.

"The concept is excellent," said John C. Sprague, board vice president. "Yet you talk with school systems and they don't know how to implement this."

The revised program, part of State Superintendent Joseph L. Shilling's recommendation for changes in high school graduation requirements, would eliminate the Maryland Test of Citizenship. But it would keep the local and state government curriculum and add community service work, requiring students to prepare plans, act on them and discuss the outcome.

Nicholas Hobar, an assistant superintendent who presented the recommendations to the board, conceded the citizenship requirement is still in the planning stages and has "a long way to go."

Responding to complaints from board members, Dr. Shilling said the program would be monitored in much the same way that schools keep track of other student activities.

"It's going to be up to us to find solutions. These are not brain surgery types of questions," said Dr. Shilling, who is leaving his position at the end of next month to head the Queen Anne's County school system. "We can do it."

In a science class, for example, students could develop a recycling or stream testing program to fulfill the requirement, he suggested.

The community service requirement has been suggested in the past with some enthusiasm but has never been a statewide requirement.

When the proposal was passed out to the county school systems in February, only Carroll County supported it. Six others, including Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties, opposed it. The other systems either did not respond or raised concerns about the feasibility and management of the program.

Several city school systems, including Atlanta, require student community service, Mr. Hobar said. And most large school systems have some programs for students interested in community service but no requirement.

The board also suggested that administrators investigate:

* An increase in the 20-credit graduation requirement.

* Requiring courses in algebra, geometry, geography, economics, civics and technology education. Schools now require math and social science credits but not those specific courses.

* Whether to keep the physical education requirement.

* Adding a course in parenting/nutrition to the requirements.

The proposal will be resubmitted to the board in July or August, but the final draft probably won't be ready until the fall, Mr. Hobar said.

The board is still in the early stages of developing the new requirements, which are to be in place for freshmen entering in the 1993-1994 school year.

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