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Maryland Chief Urges Community-Service Requirement

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Maryland's chief state school officer last week asked his board of education to establish a new kind of statewide graduation requirement for high-school students--100 hours of community service.

In so doing, State School Superintendent David W. Hornbeck became the country's first chief to propose making service to others a formal component of public education.

Mr. Hornbeck said the idea was based on his belief that schools should help students learn to meet their social and civic responsibilities as well as attend to their academic needs.

"This embodies the notion that one has the responsibility to reach beyond oneself," Mr. Hornbeck said. "And it says that as a matter of public policy we ought to be placing value in this state on the notion of rendering service."

If the state board approves the proposal, Maryland would become the first state to set such a standard for high-school graduation, according to Chris Pipho of the Education Commission of the States.

Last fall, Ernest L. Boyer, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, introduced a similar concept in a book on secondary education entitled High School. In that study, Mr. Boyer urged that schools adopt the concept of a "new Carnegie unit" for volunteer service that would provide students with "opportunities to reach beyond themselves and feel more responsibly engaged."

"The program would tap an enormous source of unused talent and suggest to young people that they are needed. It would help break the isolation of the adolescent, bring young people into contact with the elderly, the sick, the poor, and the homeless, as well as acquaint them with neighborhood and governmental issues," the Carnegie report said.

The study recommended that all high-school students be required to complete a service requirement and that the programs be organized and monitored by students themselves.

The foundation has received re-quests from all over the country for more information on Mr. Boyer's public-service recommendation, said Robert Hochstein, director of communications at the foundation.

In North Carolina, a youth-service program initiated by Gov. James B. Hunt and student leaders in 1982 received the approval of the state board of education last fall.

At its November meeting, the board endorsed the concept of giving high-school credit to students involved in "service-learning" activities.

The state board instructed the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to provide technical assistance to districts in determining how much credit is to be awarded for various public-service activities, according to Ellen L. Voland, assistant director of the Governor's office of citizen's affairs.

Among the activities that would be recognized for credit, provided the local district approves, are peer tutoring or counseling programs in the schools, internship programs with social-service agencies and hospitals, or student involvement as leaders in state youth organizations, according to Ms. Voland, who said that a majority of the students in-volved in public-service activities participate in one of these areas.

Mr. Hornbeck's proposal would allow students to earn the 100 hours of credit in grades 7 through 12 by working in nonpaying jobs in which the students are helping someone. Students would also write papers and attend seminars that relate to the community-service experience, the state superintendent told the board.

Mr. Hornbeck, who has held his position since 1976, has been interested for several years in the idea of community service for students. At his urging, the board of education previously funded two three-year pilot projects in Baltimore and Charles County that allowed students to volunteer to spend part of their day in public service.

Research done for a doctoral dissertation by Kathleen Luchs, the former principal of Northwestern High School, one of the schools involved in the project, indicated that the program improved student at-tendance and changed student attitudes about adults and responsibil-ity, Mr. Hornbeck said.

Based on the success of Baltimore's program at Northwestern and Charles County's program at La Plata High School, Mr. Hornbeck said he thinks his proposed requirement "will help attendance, reduce truancy, contribute to a sense of responsibililty, and provide many students with a purposefulness."

Mr. Hornbeck said he did not know how much a statewide program would cost, but he acknowledged that it would not be cost-free. The main expenses, he said, would be for personnel and transportation.

Members of the state board said they planned no action on the proposal for at least several months. Mr. Hornbeck's presentation met with a mixed reaction, with some board members asking how it would be possible to "mandate volunteerism."

Other Discussions

Discussions of public-service programs are occurring on the local and federal level as well.

In New York City, Mayor Edward I. Koch has proposed a voluntary-service program for 18-year-olds that he has said should be a model program for a national service.

The Mayor's plan would provide 1,000 18-year-olds with public-service employment, such as cleaning parks, helping the elderly, and working with children, said an aide to the Mayor. Participants in the program would work for a year and would be paid a weekly stipend. City officials also are investigating the possibility of providing the young people with tuition vouchers for higher education, the aide said.

Mr. Koch has asked the city council for $28 million for a three-year period to underwrite the experiment.

Legislation proposed last fall by Senator Paul E. Tsongas, Democrat of Massachusetts, is under consideration in the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources.

Senator Tsongas's bill calls for a commission to examine national-service alternatives before the Congress is asked to consider specific proposals.

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