Vt., N.H. Consider Higher Standards for State Approval
Under proposed rules now being considered in both New Hampshire and Vermont, school districts would be required to increase basic academic offerings--particularly in mathematics and science--and improve the overall quality of their programs before they could receive state approval.
The proposed recommendations, which are contained in draft reports prepared by education officials in each state, are scheduled for action by the two state boards of education early next year.
In Vermont, the proposed regulations would, among other things, for the first time require all school dis-tricts to offer kindergarten programs.
James Lengel, director of basic education for the Vermont Department of Education, said department staff members have been working on the school-approval report for the past three years and have discussed the proposed revisions with more than 100 legislators, parents, educators, and interest groups from around the state. So far, he said, the reactions to the report have been favorable.
Standards on 'School Climate'
According to Mr. Lengel, the school-approval report recommends establishing--for the first time--standards on "school climate" and the leadership roles of principals and school boards, in addition to minimum course requirements for students.
"We have allowed many small schools to go without a principal," Mr. Lengel said. Under the proposed rules, he said, schools with 10 or more teachers would be required to have a designated principal "to provide curriculum and instructional leadership."
Mr. Lengel said the proposed regulations also would require students to have at least 16 credits before they could graduate, an increase of only half a credit. But unlike the current regulations, he said, the proposal would specify requirements for each subject area. The proposed regulations call for four credits of English, three credits each of mathematics, science, and social studies, and one credit each in art, foreign language, and physical education.
In New Hampshire, the High School Standards Committee, a 17-member panel that was established by the state board of education to conduct an extensive evaluation of the state's system of education, recommended increasing student graduation requirements from 16 to 18 credits.
Students now are required to have four credits of English and one credit each in mathematics, science, social studies, and history in order to graduate from high school, according to Donald F. Day, a consultant for the state department of education.
The proposed regulations would increase the minimum graduation standards to two credits each in mathematics, science, and social studies, and add a one-credit requirement in physical education and one fourth of a credit in health education. The proposal, Mr. Day said, would maintain existing requirements in English and history.
Under the committee's plan, all schools would be required to offer three units of one foreign language and two units of another foreign language.
Mr. Day said the committee recommended maintaining a minimum 180-day school year but requiring that the schools provide students with 1,000 hours of instructional time. "This will probably mean that the school calendars will have to provide for at least 190 days" for instructional purposes, he said.
The committee's draft proposals also would eliminate the current two categories under which schools are approved and replace them with a single category that makes no distinction between comprehensive-high schools and others.
The proposals, moreover, recommend new curriculum guidelines for such courses as computers and career education.
'Not a Knee-Jerk Reaction'
Most of the committee's recommendations, according to Mr. Day, have ''come out in some of the more popular reports that have been released," such as the report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education.
But he said that the state's evaluation started about three years ago and that the committee's report "was not a knee-jerk reaction to those reports."
Despite the state's strong emphasis on local control, Mr. Day said: ''The changes in education demand that we make changes in our minimum standards. It's nice to be in the 17th century, but it's also nice to have electricity."
According to Mr. Day, the state board has not made any changes in the minimum standards since 1963.