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Maryland Chief Seeks Higher Standards, Drops Community Service

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Maryland's high-school students will have to take more courses in "core" subjects and spread them more evenly across their four secondary years if a proposal made last week by the state's superintendent of schools, David W. Hornbeck, meets with state-board approval.

But they will not have to fulfill a community-service requirement. That idea, proposed by the state chief several months ago but objected to by a number of legislators and educators, was not included in Mr. Hornbeck's standards proposals last week.

In addition to calling for more3high-school graduation requirements, Mr. Hornbeck suggested that "certificates of distinction" be established for students who take a third year of science, advanced courses in core areas, and foreign-language courses, and who maintain a 2.6 grade-point average.

Mr. Hornbeck also proposed that students be required to take at least five credits each year throughout all four years of high school to spread the load more evenly and guarantee that they do not "float" through their senior year.

"Message to Students"

"The message we want to send to students across the state is that the world today demands much more of all of us. To meet these demands, [students] must know more and have stronger skills," Mr. Hornbeck told reporters at a news briefing.

Backing off from his proposal to require community service for high-school graduation (see Education Week, Feb. 1, 1984), Mr. Hornbeck urged the state board to require that districts make community service an optional course that could be credited toward graduation.

Although many educators and parents vigorously supported the idea of required community service, there was some concern regarding logistics and cost, according to Gus Crenson, public-information officer for the state department of education.

There were also some "philosophical objections," he said. One parent complained that "public service that is required and doesn't come from the heart doesn't serve anybody," according to Mr. Crenson.

(During the legislative session that ended in mid-April, the Maryland Senate passed a bill to prohibit the state board from requiring community service for graduation, but the bill was killed by the House committee on constitutional and administrative law.)

Maryland's graduation requirements, enacted by the state board in 1974, call for a minimum program of study that includes four years of English, three years of social studies, two years each of science and mathematics, one year of physical education, and additional credits, for a total of 20 credits, according to Mr. Crenson.

Mr. Hornbeck called for modifying those standards to add a year of study fine arts and an additional year of study in mathematics.

'Certificates of Distinction'

The certificate idea, Mr. Crenson said, is a modification of a proposal by the Maryland Commission on Secondary Education, which proposed last year that the state offer two diplomas--a general diploma and a separate one for the college-bound, a move opponents claimed would lead the state into an elitist tracking system.

"The certificate will provide an incentive to students to do more advanced work," according to Mr. Crenson, who estimated that "as many as half" of the state's high- school students would choose the option if it were initated by the state board.

Longer School Day

But one member of the state board said at the meeting last week that, with the proposed course requirements and only a 2.6 grade-point average necessary, the proposal was not for "a certificate of achievement" but rather "a certificate of extra effort."

The state superintendent also urged that the school day be lengthened from 6 to 6.5 hours.

The proposal to add 30 minutes to the school day was not recommended by the secondary-education commission last year but was added by Mr. Hornbeck to "restore to students in some way the elective opportunities that would be lost due to the increase in the number of required courses," Mr. Crenson said.

Mr. Crenson said that the half-hour increase would bring Maryland schools roughly in line with the national average of required instructional time.

Mr. Hornbeck's proposals will be considered by the board and will be the subject of public hearings around the state beginning in late June.

"The hope is that the requirements will be made effective beginning with entering 9th graders in 1985," Mr. Crenson said.

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