School overhaul overhauled State board would make graduation rules tougher than staff proposes.


Members of the state Board of Education are seeking changes in a proposed overhaul of the state's high school graduation requirements.

In a discussion at the board's monthly meeting yesterday, members suggested tougher math standards, mandatory geography and economics courses and other requirements not included in a staff proposal.

Some raised questions about a proposed "citizenship practicum" that is intended to put students' citizenship skills to practical use.

And others said that the proposal, as written, simply does not go far enough.

"The time has come to really push, to stretch, to challenge," said Harry D. Shapiro, a member of the board.

He argued that students should complete more than the 20 credits currently required, including four credits in math, and suggested that all students take algebra and geometry.

The detailed plan, first outlined by a special task force in January, is intended to better prepare students for higher education or to get jobs when they graduate.

As outlined by Education Department staffers, the new requirements would apply for the first time to the ninth-grade class in the 1993-1994 school year.

Among the requirements:

* Completion of a "citizenship practicum" that would replace the state's current citizenship tests, which have been criticized as inadequate.

The practicum could include volunteer or community service work, or could be completed as part of a course already offered in the schools -- a stream cleanup project as part of an ecology course, for example.

* A tougher mathematics requirement, including "instruction in algebraic concepts" and "geometric concepts." That requirement need not include actual algebra or geometry classes, however.

* A mandatory three credits in laboratory science, or two credits in science and one credit in technology education.

* Three credits in social studies, including at least two credits from geography, world history, government and contemporary issues or economics.

Board members had mixed reactions to the proposal.

Shapiro criticized the decision to stick with a 20-credit graduation requirement, rather than raising it to 21 credits, as has Montgomery County.

Though he praised the concept of volunteerism, he voiced concern about the difficulty of monitoring students doing volunteer work.

"I question whether we have the resources to make sure the students have in fact complied" with the citizenship requirement, he said.

Several other members raised questions about how the citizenship practicum is organized. Some worried that it could be difficult to administer. Others said that such a program could hurt other volunteer activities that might have difficulty fitting the state's definitions.

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