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Tighter Graduation Standards Set

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North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia have joined the growing number of states engaged in tightening academic standards and graduation requirements for high-school students to encourage them to take more advanced courses in English, mathematics, science, and foreign languages.

And other states continue to announce their intention to raise the standards for admission to their public colleges and universities.

Course Units Increased

The North Carolina Board of Education this month approved a proposal to increase from 18 to 20 the number of course units required for high-school graduation. The board also discussed launching a North Carolina Scholars program that would recognize high-school students who successfully complete a well-balanced and rigorous academic program.

"The feeling is that we do not need to let our students in their senior year take the path of least resistance and not be challenged by taking a full [course] load," said Jerry T. Beaver, deputy assistant state superintendent for instruction services.

The Virginia Board of Education is considering raising high-school course requirements from 18 to 20; requiring students to remain in school the entire academic day; and offering a special diploma to students who complete a college-pre-paratory curriculum--a move that vocational-education groups in the state say is "elitist."

The recommendations were devised by a 17-member committee on public-school accreditation.

The Georgia Board of Regents and Department of Education are working together on a recommendation to local school boards that would encourage public schools to place more emphasis on mathematics, science, and foreign-language courses.

In Florida, Commissioner of Education Ralph D. Turlington announced this month that unless a federal court finds that school districts do not teach the subject matter tested by the State Student Assessment Test (ssat-ii), the test will be a requirement for graduation beginning this May.

Mr. Turlington said students would be well advised to take the test seriously.

He asked the help of school administrators in stressing the strong possibility that the test will go into effect this spring.

The law requiring the test was passed by the 1976 Florida legislature and was scheduled to go into effect in 1979, but court procedures have caused delays.

Standards and Procedures

The new standards and procedures being proposed in the Southern states reflect "what has been taking place for the past five years or so,'' says Lew Armistead, director of public information at the National Association of Secondary School Principals (nassp).

"States are responding to a general cry for excellence from colleges, parents, businesses, government, local communities, and even the kids themselves," according to Mr. Armistead.

Twenty-seven states have announced, or are in the process of formulating, more stringent admissions requirements, according to a nassp survey. (See Education Week, Nov. 24, 1982.)

Among the most recent proposals:

The Kentucky Council of Higher Education approved a set of precollegiate curriculum requirements. The new standards require students to complete a 20-unit course of study that includes four units of English; three units of mathematics; two units of science in biology, chemistry, or physics; one unit of U.S. history; and a course in world civilization. The new requirements will go into effect in the fall of 1987.

High-school students in Massachusetts would have to take a minimum number of college-preparatory courses and would be screened by their scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test under a proposal being developed by the state board of regents.

The proposal recommends that students take a minimum of 16 units, including four units of English; three units of mathematics; and two units of natural science, social science, and a foreign language.

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