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Few Seniors Met Standards Set by Excellence Panel, N.C.E.S. Says

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Washington--Fewer than 3 percent of the nation's 1982 high-school seniors met the graduation requirements recommended this spring by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, according to a new report.

The National Center for Education Statistics recently compared the transcripts of more than 12,000 students in both public and private schools with the recommendations outlined in the commission's report, A Nation at Risk.

The report, released last April, called on state and local school officials to require graduates to complete a minimum of 4 years of English, 3 years each of mathematics, science, and social studies, and a half-year of computer science. (See Education Week, April 27, 1983.)

The nces analysis indicated that only 2.6 percent of the 1982 graduates had completed course work in those "New Basics" promoted by the commission.

In addition, the excellence commission "strongly recommended" that college-bound students complete at least two years of study in a foreign language. Only 1.8 percent of all graduates and 3.7 percent of those who planned to attend college for four or more years met that requirement, the nces found.

"These findings further prove the need for higher expectations and more rigorous requirements in our elementary and secondary schools," said Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell in a statement accompanying the report. "It is encouraging to note that school boards and administrators are already aware of these needs.

"Increased standards now being implemented will likely ensure that future high-school graduating classes will present a more encouraging picture," Mr. Bell added.

The nces survey also indicated that while the vast majority of students failed to meet the minimum 13.5 credits entailed in "The New Basics," they had accumulated an average of 21.8 credits by taking courses other than those regarded as important by the excellence commission.

'Cafeteria-Style Curriculum'

Mr. Bell said that finding supports the commission's allegation that some secondary schools offer a "cafeteria-style curriculum" that has been "homogenized, diluted, and diffused."

"This is bad news," the Secretary said. "[But] the good news is that we have a nationwide movement underway that will change this picture."

The nces survey was conducted as part of "High School and Beyond," its massive longitudinal study of students who were sophomores and seniors in 1980.

The center has examined the educational achievements of these groups of students every two years.--tm

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