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School board member questions service-learning graduation requirement

March 09, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

Washington County school board member W. Edward Forrest this week questioned whether the state’s student service-learning graduation requirement serves a purpose, suggesting that Algebra II be made a graduation requirement.

“Not to belittle or disvalue the importance of student service learning, but I think that’s one of those feel-good things that came down from the state many years ago,” Forrest said Tuesday during a Washington County Board of Education meeting in Hagerstown.

His comments came at the end of a presentation about how this year’s seniors were meeting the high school assessment portion of the graduation requirement.

Forrest said he knows most of the student service-learning hours are embedded in the curriculum, leaving students with about 15 hours to earn on their own.

“I think a lot of our kids are already actively involved in their church and community, and various other things” that build character, he said.

Forrest said Thursday that his comments related to an earlier discussion during Tuesday’s board meeting about a bill to establish a financial- literacy course as a graduation requirement being considered by state lawmakers.

If state officials want to make financial literacy a graduation requirement and it passes the legislature, perhaps they should remove the student service-learning requirement, Forrest said

The state keeps adding requirements, he said.

“I get the message of it, but I’m not sure that it’s serving its purpose,” Forest said of the student service-learning requirement, noting that parents can teach their children the importance of service.

Students must complete 75 hours of student service learning to graduate, according to the school system’s website at www.wcps.k12.md.us.

Donna Hanlin, county assistant superintendent for curriculum, school administration and improvement, said she wasn’t aware of any standard that measures the value of the student service-learning requirement.

Students have an assignment in which they reflect on the value of that experience, she said.

With talk about preparing students for college and careers and moving toward a new curriculum, Forrest said the school system should consider making Algebra II a graduation requirement.

“I don’t think that’s too high of an expectation for most of our students. And I think that we need to set the bar a little higher,” Forrest said.

Most high school students take Algebra II because it is a requirement for students who want to earn the University of Maryland “completer,” Hanlin said.

Students must complete either the university completer, which sets minimum standards to get into a university system college, or finish the career-technology education completer to graduate, Hanlin said Thursday.

Students who choose the career-technology education completer do not have to take Algebra II, although many do, Hanlin said.

Starting with this year’s freshmen, students who choose the university completer path must take a math course — Algebra II or beyond — during their senior year, Hanlin said.

County Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said it will be up to school system officials to make sure math courses are available for seniors proficient in math. They might need to be college-level virtual classes, or courses taken through a dual enrollment program, he said.

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