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Md. pushes change in diploma requirements


The state Board of Education moved yesterday toward stringent new graduation requirements that would add a fourth year of math and social studies, a year of technology education and community service to the hurdles students must clear to win their high school diplomas.

After extensive debate, board members went far beyond the recommendations of their staff and of a January task force on graduation requirements -- increasing the total number of prescribed "core" courses from 15 to 17.

Additional requirements would be imposed as students decided to continue their studies after high school or go straight to work.

For college-bound students, there would be an additional requirement of two years of a foreign language or two years of advanced technology courses, bringing the number of prescribed core courses to 19. The total number of credits necessary for graduation would remain at 20 for such students.

Students headed for the world of work, however, would have to take a total of 21 credits: the prescribed core courses plus four years of state-approved career or vocational training.

The board's vote allows publication of the proposed changes, to be followed by a public hearing and a final vote in late fall. The new requirements would take effect for incoming ninth-graders in the 1993-1994 school year.

Board members will discuss today just how many hours of community service should be mandated as part of the graduation requirements and whether the state will drop the citizenship test now necessary for graduation. If the changes are adopted, Maryland will become the first state in the country making community service a graduation requirement.

In their zeal to demand more from students, board members also agreed that the four math credits will include two incorporating advanced algebraic and geometric concepts. Currently, any math course will satisfy graduation requirements, and, as a result, many students don't take algebra -- viewed as a prerequisite for college study.

The four social studies credits will include a half-credit of geography, a half-credit of economics and one credit each of United States history, World history and government.

The changes are likely to bring objections from advocates of the arts and extracurricular activities -- areas which traditionally suffer when the number of prescribed courses goes up.

Many local school districts, however, already go beyond state graduation requirements. Some have six-period days, allowing time for 24 credits in four years as opposed to 20.

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