Montgomery Blair High School's Online Student Newspaper
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June 17, 2008

Credits make all the difference

by Emily Hsiao, Online Managing Editor
One of the 17.5 mandatory course credits required for graduation, the technology education credit, used to be easy to earn, with a choice of 17 different technology education classes at Blair. Thanks to a new Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) technology education program, students are now faced with limited course choices, and classes that currently offer the credit and valuable technological skills are now fated to disinterest and decreased student enrollment.

After adopting national standards for a technology education credit in 2000, the Maryland State Department of Education created a new curriculum, which the State Board of Education approved in 2005 for all school systems to use. The curriculum will introduce two new technology education courses next school year. In addition, MCPS will no longer give technology credits to students graduating in 2012 and later for any of the courses available to all students that currently give technology credits. The county will implement these changes in the technology curriculum next school year to meet Maryland's new requirements for the credit.

This new technology curriculum is leaning toward new standards for technology: going away from skill-based training and building projects to theoretical and physics-based training, according to career and technology education resource teacher Robert Hopkins. He said he believes that MCPS is implementing this new curriculum in part to help provide support for High School Assessment (HSA) topics such as math and science so that students have a better understanding. In choosing to prioritize the HSAs, MCPS ignores the other departments that used to fulfill technology credits, like computer science. The purpose of these technology education classes is not to help support students with their HSAs, but to educate students in technology. The current technology education classes offer a variety of valuable skills that should not be replaced.

Even though current computer science classes will lose their technology credits next year, MCPS plans to continue to involve computer science in their new technology education curriculum, according to MCPS Director of Career and technology Education Shelley A. Johnson. One of the two classes being introduced this fall, the Introduction of Engineering course will be offered in a computer lab, with the focus being on design using a computer-assisted design software package. A technology education and computer science hybrid course will be offered in the fall of 2010. Computer science teachers will be able to teach both of these courses, according to Johnson. But doing all these new things to incorporate computer science in the technology education curriculum will soften the impact of the loss of credits for current computer science classes. What MCPS has failed to consider is the futures of the classes that now have been moved to the electives category.

Because students are required to take and pass certain courses in order to earn course credits and graduate, they will often prioritize classes that offer required credits over elective classes that may genuinely interest them. Without their technology credit, these former technology courses will lose their appeal to students who may have chosen to take these courses not only for the credit but also for their interest in the subject. By limiting classes that fulfill the technology credit requirements, MCPS is limiting student choice and forcing students to take courses that cater less to their interests.

Without student interest, class enrollment will drop and the classes may be cancelled. As Johnson acknowledged, "enrollment in courses that currently carry the technology education credit most likely will decline as the courses that meet the [new] credit requirements are phased in."

Business and computer science resource teacher Linda Rogner knows that teachers' jobs are based on how many students sign up for their classes. "We're anxious every year: will we have enough students to have a job?" Rogner said. Now with the new MCPS policy, Rogner and the rest of the teachers who have been teaching technology credit courses have a real reason to worry.

The technology curriculum should not be made to focus on one particular aspect. The new MCPS technology credit policy causes an unequal emphasis on certain topics over others, while also limiting the number of valid classes students can choose from to fulfill their technology education credit. What MCPS should do in order to consider both the current technology courses as well as these new courses that take technology in a new direction is to update the curriculum to include these new classes without taking away the credits from the old courses.




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