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Mich. Panel Urges More Courses, Longer Year

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Preliminary recommendations released last week by the Michigan High School Commission urged the state board of education to take "strong steps" to improve the quality of the state's schools.

The 24-member commission--jointly sponsored by the state board of education and the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals--called for lengthening the school year from 180 days and 900 hours to 200 days and 1,000 hours; upgrading college-admission requirements to include "basic proficiency in reading, writing, mathematics, and foreign languages;" and establishing minimum standards for high-school graduation that would include four years of language arts (in English, literature, writing, and communications), at least two years of mathematics, two years of science, three years of social studies, and one-half year of computer studies.

(Currently, the only state-mandated graduation requirement is that students take a civics course.)

Among its 19 recommendations, the commission also urged that school districts establish competency standards in mathematics and language arts for grade-level promotion and graduation; it called on the state board to strengthen certification standards for teachers and administrators, requiring participation in staff-development programs as a condition for recertification.

The preliminary recommendations will be discussed in a series of public forums in Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Gaylord, and Marquette. The first hearing is scheduled for Sept. 26.

Final recommendations will be presented to the state board of education early next year.

The commission surveyed 400 high-school principals throughout the state. Some 77 percent of the respondents said they require no minimum competency-testing program for promotion or graduation. The average graduation requirement for English was 3.2 years, with 60 percent of the schools requiring three years. In mathematics and science, the average number of courses required for graduation amounted to 1.5 years and 1.3 years, respectively.

Four percent of the schools did not offer advanced algebra, 23 percent had no trigonometry courses, and 41 percent did not offer calculus.

Initiating Proposals

State Superintendent Phillip E Runkel said last week that he would recommend initiating the commission's proposals as a pilot project in a handful of districts, "with full state funding," as early as next year. In addition, Mr. Runkel said, he would favor adding 20 days to the school year if those days could be made available for special purposes, such as "academies for gifted and talented students, programs in curricu-lum areas of high student interest, and computer camps."

"The challenge if we add 20 more days," Mr. Runkel said, "is to use them creatively, for more than regular classroom instruction."sr

Correspondent Glen Macnow contributed to this report.

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