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New rules urged for diplomas Community service would be flexible


ANNAPOLIS -- The State Board of Education proposed a compromise set of high school graduation requirements to a legislative review panel yesterday, including a revised but still controversial provision to require students to perform up to 75 hours of community service.

To lessen opposition from local school systems that believe the community service requirement is inappropriate, too costly or both, the revised regulations would allow each system to design its own program provided it is approved by the state superintendent of schools.

The Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee expressed concerns about the community service requirement as well as the overall $35 million, five-year cost of implementing the tougher graduation standards, but took no vote. Unless regulations are of an emergency nature, the panel can only review standard regulations and suggest changes.

The new graduation requirements, which would apply to students who graduate in 1998 or thereafter, also would:

* Cut the currently required one credit in physical education in half to make room for an added half-credit in health education, which could include topics such as acquired immune deficiency syndrome, drug or alcohol abuse, cardiopulmonary resuscitation or sex education.

* Retain at three the number of credits required in mathematics, but specify that two of those three must be obtained by taking algebra and geometry. The original proposal unveiled last fall called for the number of math credits to be increased to four, with two of the four in algebra and geometry.

* Retain at three the number of credits required in science. The original proposal would have reduced that to two.

* Require for the first time a credit in a course of study called "technology education," described by state education officials as practical application of what students learn in math and science.

* Require three credits in social studies, the same as at present, but specifically require that one be in U.S. history, one in world history, and one in local, state and national government. The original proposal had called for four credits, the fourth one split between geography and economics.

The State Board of Education is scheduled to hold a public meeting on those and other proposed changes to the graduation requirements July 29 at its headquarters at 200 W. Baltimore St.

State School Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick said the revised regulations, two years in the making and the first since 1985, represented compromises developed through discussions with local school superintendents and boards of education.

Several review committee members said the community service and technology education proposals were too vague.

Del. Howard P. Rawlings, D-Baltimore, complained that the state was emphasizing "feely, fudgy-wudgy kinds of programs" rather than concentrating on more core educational requirements.

Several also said they were worried that the cost of imposing the stiffer graduation requirements will simply be passed along to the local jurisdictions, while noting that the state also is in no financial position to take on new spending.

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