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State 'Model' Curriculum Suggested For California Schools

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A proposal to establish "sight-raising," model graduation requirements for all California high-school students, was expected to win approval last Friday from the state board of education.

Graduation requirements, once mandated by state law in California, have been left for local school districts to determine since 1969. The board's model is based on findings that California high-school students take fewer academic courses on the average than do students elsewhere in the nation and that there is--as Ann Leavenworth, a member of the board, has described it--a "terrible discrepancy" in diploma requirements among school districts in the state.

Slightly modified from an earlier draft, the board's model curriculum calls for: four years of English; two years of a single foreign language; three years of mathematics, including at least a year of algebra, a year of geometry, and a third year that could be used for pre-algebra, advanced algebra, or a 12th-grade course in practical mathematics; one year of physical and earth science and one year of biology; three years of social science, including one year of world cultures, one year of U.S. history, one semester of U.S. government, and one semester of economics; one year of visual and performing arts; and one semester of computer studies.

Added to Current Mandates

These model requirements, in the board's plan, would be "in addition" to current state mandates for two years of physical education and for health and safety instruction.

The board also has proposed specific objectives for students to meet in each of the courses included in its graduation model.

The model would not be binding on local school districts--unlike similar, but less stringent, graduation requirements proposed as state mandates in two complex school-finance-reform bills being reshaped in the legislature as one package. (See Education Week, June 8, 1983.)

Members of the board's Master Plan Committee who prepared the model and sought reactions to it at several public hearings throughout the state, said in their final report that setting forth a state goal for effective education for all students "provides a rationale" for seeking additional funds for schools.

"By adopting a model, the board challenges local school districts to raise their sights and to recognize what is necessary for excellence in education," the report said.

The board--whose 10 members are appointed by the governor--has a key role in setting statewide education policies, selecting textbooks, and disbursing categorical funds to local districts.

'Yardstick Model'

The board plan requires each district maintaining high schools to review during the 1983-84 academic year its present and planned graduation requirements, "using the board's model as a yardstick."

Districts are also asked "in the light of such review," to report to the board by June 1984 the graduation requirements they have established or plan to establish.

Under the board's plan, districts are urged to make new graduation requirements effective for students entering high school in the fall of 1984 and graduating in the spring of 1988.--Michael Fallon

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