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North Carolina Department Urges Standardized Course Offerings

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Raleigh, N.C.--The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, concerned that educational opportunities vary among school systems within the state, has issued a plan designed to ensure that a minimum course of study is offered to every student in North Carolina.

Developed under a legislative mandate, the plan includes a list of the courses each high school must offer and the levels of achievement that elementary-school students must attain. For example, children from kindergarten through 3rd grade should be taught to hear the "differences between and among sounds," the plan says.

"This plan provides an understandable description of what every parent has a right to expect of their schools," said Howard Maniloff, a special assistant for policy development in the state education department, in submitting the plan to the state board of education at a recent meeting. "It lays out what should be available to every child."

C.D. Spangler Jr., chairman of the state board, praised the plan at the meeting as a way to ensure that all children--whether they are from a wealthy metropolitan area or a poor rural one--are offered a comparable education.

Comparable Education

"There is no justification for a child to have different educational opportunities because he comes from a rural area of the state," he said.

"The state currently sets curriculum standards, it's in the law, but school systems have not taught the curriculum because they don't have the money," said Mr. Maniloff in an interview. "Many districts cannot offer art or they offer physics every other year."

Mr. Maniloff said the proposal, which is expected to be approved by the state board early next month and then sent to the legislature for consideration, offers school systems the flexibility to decide how they would provide courses to students.

"We're saying kids have to be offered physics," he continued, "but it might be that the best, the most efficient way to offer the course is to contract with a local university or community college to teach it."

Sharing Costs

According to Mr. Maniloff, a key issue facing the legislature will be how to share the cost of implementing the new "standard course of study."

"Equity is the issue," he said. "The General Assembly is going to have to decide what the state and local mix of funding for the program will be." The education department has been directed by lawmakers to estimate the cost of the program but has not yet done so, Mr. Maniloff said.

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