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State Boards Advance School-Reform Proposals

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State boards of education across the country reacted this summer to the recent reports on education reform by passing initiatives to strengthen graduation requirements, add more units to the curriculum, develop basic-skills tests, and raise the compulsory-attendance age.

The Arizona Board of Education unanimously voted in June to adopt a list of minimum skills that 8th-grade students must master to be promoted and that 12th-grade students must demonstrate to graduate.

The list of skills in mathematics, English and language arts, science, social studies, and health and music for 8th graders was developed at the request of the legislature, which required the board to develop minimum-competency requirements for both promotion and graduation. Local school boards, which have until the 1986-87 school year to implement the new requirements, will determine what measurements or tests can be used to evaluate students for these skills.

The board also approved a four-day school week for the Young School District, a rural district that had only 78 students last year.

Young will be the second school district in the state to run on a four-day school week in order to save money, according to Thomas Reno, associate superintendent for the Arizona Education Department.

The Patagonia School District operated with four-day school weeks last year and received permission from the board to do so again this coming year.

Attendance Requirement

The Illinois Board of Education voted unanimously last month to approve a recommendation that the state legislature raise the compulsory school-attendance requirement from 16 to 18 or until a student attains a high-school degree or its equivalent. At the age of 16, with the participation of parents and school officials, a student could decide to enter an alternative program, such as a community college, which would also lead to the attainment of a high-school diploma.

The plan is an effort to prevent students from dropping out of school, according to Lee Milner, a spokesman for the board, who estimated that 4.8 percent of Illinois's high-school students drop out each year. The proposed change in the compulsory-attendance age will be part of a package of education proposals submitted by the board to the state legislature in January.

The Kentucky Board of Education last month unanimously approved a list of essential skills developed by the state education department for mathematics, reading, writing, spelling, and library skills in grades K through 12. Kentucky's General Assembly passed legislation earlier this year requiring testing for essential skills but left it up to the education department and the board to set the standards students should achieve.

The department plans to choose a national testing company to develop tests for each grade level based on the specified skills. The tests would be implemented in reading and mathematics this coming spring, and in writing, spelling, and library skills in the spring of 1986, according to Rebecca Brown, associate superintendent for research and planning for the department.

Instructional Time

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted last month to delay for at least one year the addition of 30 minutes of instructional time to the school day. Gov. Edwin W. Edwards requested the delay after members of the Louisiana Association of Educators threatened to sue state officials if teachers were required to work an additional 30 minutes without extra pay.

The extra 30 minutes had initially been added to instructional time in the elementary-school day to provide for a specific block of time for foreign-language instruction, according to Louis Michelli, education administrator for the board. However, both houses of the legislature passed a bill requiring that the extra minutes not be added. Although that bill was vetoed by the Governor, he requested the delay from the board.

The New Hampshire Board of Education unanimously voted in June to increase the number of credits required for high-school graduation from 16 to 19.75. The new requirements, which took effect July 15, include a half-year each of art, computer literacy, and business education focused on American finance, and two units each of mathematics and science, according to Otis Cloud, a member of the board.

The Oregon Board of Education approved the "Oregon Action for Excellence Plan" in a unanimous decision in June. The plan calls for the establishment of a core curriculum; testing of all 5th-, 8th-, and 11th-grade students; improved use of new technology in the schools; and the establishment of programs to improve school effectiveness.

Funding for the plan, which is estimated to cost $5.24 million, was scheduled to be approved by the board in its August meeting. It is expected to be included in Gov. Victor G. Atiyeh's executive budget for the 1985 legislature, according to Agnes Mussmecher, management assistant for the board.

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