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Maryland State Board Approves Stricter Graduation Standards

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Baltimore--The Maryland State Board of Education has approved tougher high-school graduation standards, including requirements that students take a third year of mathematics and one year each of fine arts and practical arts.

The state board of education, which began studying upgrading graduation standards three years ago, also approved the establishment of a "certificate of merit" for students who take an extra year of science and earn foreign-language credit.

The board also agreed to add a requirement that all students take a minimum number of courses in each year of high school, including four in their senior year; to specify that one of the required social-studies credits be in U.S. history; and to require local school districts to offer an elective in community service.

Needs Formal Approval

The new measures, which take effect with 9th-grade students entering high school next fall, must be formally approved by the state board at its June meeting. But members agreed that they had no plans to change the package.

"We're setting higher standards and raising expectations," said David W. Hornbeck, state superinten-dent of schools. "I'm pleased to be on with it."

Under the board's plan, the total number of credits required of Maryland students will remain at 20, but the number of mandatory courses will increase from 12 to 15. Students will still be required to complete four years of Engish, three years of social studies, two years of science, and one year of physical education.

The board's decision to add a practical-arts credit, which it had previously rejected, took some observers by surprise. At their March 27 meeting, board members acknowledged that they had been swayed by intense lobbying from vocational-education and industrial-arts advo-cates to require students to obtain some "hands-on" experience in the classroom.

Students can earn the new credit by taking courses in industrial arts, technology education, home economics, vocational education, business education, or computer studies.

While several of Maryland's 24 school districts already require an additional mathematics or fine-arts credit, none now requires practical arts.

Mr. Hornbeck had urged the board not to add the practical-arts requirement, noting that it would "detract from, rather than add to, the strengthening of graduation requirements." But after the vote, Mr. Hornbeck said he thought the extra credit would not have a major negative effect on the schools. He predicted, however, that local districts would have to spend more money to hire teachers in the specified subjects.

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