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Standing Behind School's Products : Proposal Would Return 'Faulty' Students to Classroom

December 11, 1987|PATRICIA McCORMACK | United Press International Senior Editor and United Press International

NEW YORK — Under guarantee plans, you return a bum car or watch to the manufacturer. The "lemon" gets fixed.

Similarly, a guarantee should apply to products turned out by the nation's high schools, according to a proposition that popped up last week. It goes like this:

Stick a guarantee on high school diplomas so people who give holders jobs or let them into college know the piece of paper stands for something, such as reading, writing, computing, listening, critical thinking skills.

The rest of the proposition advanced by Mary M. Mackabee, St. Paul, Minn., one of two spokespersons for principals and teachers attending a five-day education summit at Captiva Island, Fla., goes like this: A "lemon" graduate would get the same treatment as a faulty car or watch--returned to the school for a fix-up.

Mackabee, director of curriculum for St. Paul public schools, brought up "guaranteed diplomas" during an interview keyed to discussions at the five-day "In Honor of Excellence" symposium for school leaders from the 50 states, District of Columbia, America Samoa and Puerto Rico.

Financed by Burger King Corp., the conference was held in conjunction with the National Assn. of Secondary School Principals and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Its theme: "Education and Competitiveness: The Quest for Excellence in Business and Education."

"The basic recommendations center on better ways to support educational preparation, preparing students to leave high schools with skills needed to go to work or to college," Mackabee said.

"We are not doing it enough. We could do it better.

Definition Needed

"The one thing we can do is guarantee our high school graduates have minimum competency. We need to have a definition of what a high school diploma stands for. What does it mean--at what grade level does the holder read, at what grade level can he compute, does he have writing and reading and listening and critical thinking skills needed to survive in the world or work or college."

She suggested that the nation's more than 15,000 school districts consider attaching guarantees to diplomas.

Hopkins High School in Hopkins, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis, issues guarantees, according to Mackabee.

"If people are not satisfied that the graduate has the right amount of basic school knowledge, he will be retaught in Hopkins," she said.

Bert J. Neumaier, a South Windsor, Conn., educator (Timothy Edward Middle School), another conference spokesman, said each school district, in cooperation with local business groups and community, needs to determine what a high school diploma should mean.

Parents should be in on such discussions, too, he asserted, saying, "We want to encourage communication between the business and education community and parents and the schools.

"Out of such discussion would come goals to use as our expectations. A (national) statement about a common core of learning in high schools that the various states could use as their guide for requirements would help."

He said conferees also believe greater emphasis is needed on teaching youngsters how to think and how to process information.

The educators claim that with information increasing all the time, it's not enough to teach courses--students need to learn how to seek out information and process it.

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