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Arts educators in North Carolina are asking the state board of education to reconsider a decision to drop a requirement that students take an arts course to be eligible for the North Carolina Scholars Program diploma.

The special diploma, earned by about 14 percent of the state's high-school graduates last year, is intended to honor students who complete a rigorous academic curriculum.

In a move to strengthen the academic character of the diploma, the board last month voted to replace requirements for arts and vocational-education coursework with additional requirements in mathematics and science, and to rename the program the Academic Scholars Program.

"We have nothing against arts or vocational education," said Roger Schurrer, staff assistant in program services in the state department of education. "Does the diploma denote a comprehensive program, or a narrow academic focus?"

But Emmy Whitehead, president of the North Carolina Art Education Association, called the move misguided, and warned that it could destroy the state's highly regarded arts program by cutting back enrollments.

"We've worked so hard to let it go down the tubes," she said.

The test scores of minority students in Pennsylvania are not improving despite the existence of a five-year-old remedial-education program, the state Human Relations Commission has concluded.

The commission studied the standardized test scores of black children in 111 districts where 100 or more such students were enrolled and found about 71 percent needed special instruction in math or reading or both.

It examined the scores of Hispanic children in 44 districts where 50 or more such students were enrolled and found that 75 percent of the children tested poorly enough to warrant remedial instruction.

Forty percent of the Hispanic students and 44 percent of the black students who were 9th graders in 1986-1987 were found to have dropped out by their senior year, a commission official said.

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