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Illinois State Board Issues Outline of 'What Students Should Know'

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Springfield, Ill.--In response to what state education officials suggested is the ineffectiveness of simply mandating graduation requirements to spur student achievement, a committee of the Illinois State Board of Education has produced a detailed outline of what students ought to know as a consequence of their schooling.

"For the first time in 150 years, we are taking a major step toward reforming what the state has mandated in education programs," said Superintendent Donald G. Gill.

"No longer should we focus on time and titles," he added.

"The important thing, as [the report] shows, is to lay out what we expect students to achieve--what is the least they should know and be able to do as a consequence of their schooling," he said.

The report, the work of an 85-member committee of educators, business leaders, and citizens, includes specific statements about what students should be expected to learn in each of seven areas--language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, the fine arts, physical development, and health.

Part of Extended Review

The so-called "learning outcomes" specified by the committee will next be examined in a series of public hearings around the state. State education officials say they hope to submit them to the General Assembly this spring as an alternative to the graduation requirements that the legislature enacted last year over the state board's opposition.

The committee's report, part of a three-year review of all state mandates, calls for ultimate repeal of current curriculum requirements, which would be replaced in law by the outcome statements. (See Education Week, June 8, 1983.)

The committee's recommendations combine specific outcomes for various academic disciplines with general educational goals, including that ''students understand the differences between critical and relative thinking and the contribution that each makes to the development of the individual and society."

Moreover, the committee urges that students be "able to use logical and systematic thinking processes in addressing life situations."

The committee suggests that before they graduate, students should be able to:

Read, comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and use written material; write standard English in a grammatical, well-organized, and coherent manner for a variety of purposes, and understand the various forms of significant literature from different cultures and eras.

Add, subtract, multiply, and divide whole numbers, fractions, and decimals; understand and apply concepts involving geometric forms and relationships; and be able to use graphs and tables and understand ratios, percentages, and measurements.

Develop a working knowledge of the concepts and basic vocabulary of biological, physical, and environmental sciences and their applications to life and work in contemporary technological society.

Analyze comparative political and economic systems; understand events, trends, personalities, and movements shaping history; and know the basic concepts of social studies and how they help interpret human behavior.

Understand the physical development, structure, and functions of the human body, the principles of nutrition, exercise, and the "efficient management of emotional stress, positive self-concept development, drug use and abuse, and prevention and treatment of illness." They should also acquire skills useful in leisure activities and be able to plan a personal fitness program.

Understand and describe the unique characteristics of art, music, dance, and theater, and identify "significant works from major historical periods and how they reflect society's cultures and civilizations."

The committee said that use of the outcome statements for handicapped youths would be governed by their individualized educational plans.

The state board will work to have the cur-riculum statements enacted into law, giving local districts latitude to develop curriculum offerings consistent with the outcomes, according to a spokesman.

Under the board's plan, each school district would be required to monitor and measure student achievement, using a local assessment program approved by the state board.

School officials would be required to report student progress to the public and describe what changes they would make when achievement problems crop up.

The state board has been working toward outcomes to replace course mandates since it began its study of statutory and regulatory requirements three years ago.

So far, however, the state legislature has not gone along with the board's proposals.

After shelving board proposals to repeal the driver-education mandate and relax physical-education requirements, lawmakers last year approved new graduation standards dictating how many years of a basic core of coursework students must take to receive a diploma.

The state board unsuccessfully fought the new law, which was supported by the Illinois Education Association.

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