The board voted unanimously last month to provide an alternative to the existing plan for 75 hours of mandated student service over the middle- and high-school years.
The option would allow districts to devise their own student service requirement--without parameters such as total hours served--pending approval by the state superintendent.
If the policy, which is part of a package of changes to the state’s graduation requirements, is approved, Maryland would be the first state to require service as a condition for graduation. A final vote could come in March. (See Education Week, Dec. 11, 1991.)
The mandate would first apply to 9th graders entering high school in September 1993.
The board’s action came in direct response to formal disapproval of the requirement by all 24 school boards in the state and all but two superintendents, state education officials said. The new option “reflects the keen desire of the state superintendent to find some common ground between the position of the state board and the position of the local school superintendents,” said Maurice B. Howard, chief of the arts and sciences branch in the state education department.
Mr. Howard said he anticipated that if the revised mandate is approved, most districts would choose to design their own service requirement, in part because it would allow them to better control costs during a time of dwindling state funding.
The state’s fiscal crunch has been a major factor in district opposition to a greater number of graduation requirements, including student service, Mr. Howard said.
Before the most recent board action, eight districts estimated the cost of implementing the 75-hour student-service requirement. Seven districts said they would each need between $500,000 and $3 million to cover such costs as additional staff for oversight and record keeping, transportation of students to service sites, and liability coverage.
Only one district said it could foresee no increased cost to put the program into place.--M.L
A version of this article appeared in the January 08, 1992 edition of Education Week as Md. Amends Youth-Service Plan To Allow Flexibility for Districts