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Pennsylvania Unit Drops Revisions Of Curriculum

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Harrisburg, Pa--The Pennsylvania Board of Education has temporarily withdrawn its plans to adopt controversial new curriculum regulations that both of the state's teachers' unions had charged would undermine existing educational standards in the state's schools.

The board unanimously decided at its May meeting to delay action on the state education department's proposal, after receiving testimony from more than 100 individuals and representatives of statewide education lobbies during a two-day public hearing last month.

"What we have here is a proposal that could create 501 individual school systems [in Pennsylvania] with the absolute powers to wipe out programs and set their own standards of quality and accreditation of students," said Jacque Angle, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (psea). "The proposals could create chaos for all of Pennsylvania's 1.8 million schoolchildren."

The department has been working since 1977 on a revision of Chapter Five, a set of state board regulations that govern curricula of the state's public schools. The modifications--which were developed after consultation with every major education lobby in the state--represent an effort to give more "flexibility" to school districts and to link the curriculum to the board's 12 "Goals of Quality Education."

Boost Student Development

The 12 goals are a variation of a set of guidelines adopted by the state board in 1965 that were intended to boost student development in communication, mathematics, self-esteem, analytical thinking, understanding others, citizenship, arts and humanities, science and technology, work, family living, health, and environmental studies.

The psea and the Pennsylvania Federation of Teachers, while agreeing that the state's curriculum regulations need to be revised, contend that if the department's current proposal were put in place, school districts would be able to:

Determine the content and length of a "unit of credit," eliminating the assurance that a child transferring from one district to another in the state would be able to transfer his course work.

Drop programs in business education, consumer education, home economics, and industrial arts.

Eliminate many physical-education programs, including physical education for handicapped students.

psea officials say the union has collected about 70,000 signatures on petitions protesting the education department's proposed changes.

Ann Witmer, spokesman for the state education agency, said that the department would review testimony from the public hearing and could have a new draft of proposed revisions to present to the state board at its July 8 meeting.

"We do not see this as a setback," she said. "This process has been going on a long time. Many groups are involved in it, and that is how the state board wants it. They want to give every opportunity for groups to have their say ... and for the revised regulations to be a consensus document."

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