County tightens community service hour requirements

March 14, 2002, midnight | By Jessica Stamler Stephen Wertheim | 18 years, 10 months ago

As part of an ongoing countywide initiative to make student volunteer work address "a recognized need within the community," MCPS has disqualified some classes and extracurricular activities from counting towards fulfillment of the 60-hour Student Service Learning (SSL) graduation requirement, according to Pam Meador, an SSL specialist for MCPS.

The cancellation of SSL hours obtained automatically after the completion of some classes will begin in September, Meador said. Affected classes include visual arts and music classes such as Band, Chorus, Orchestra, Photography and Studio Art.

Classes that will retain automatic SSL credits include most family and consumer science classes and most career technology courses at the vocational Thomas Edison High School of Technology. The MCPS Course Bulletin distributed in February indicates all courses through which students can earn SSL hours next year.

Additionally, the county notified SSL-approved organizations in February that training for athletic activities and dramatic, artistic or musical performances is no longer suitable for SSL completion. Meador said the events themselves could still count if they are conducted for the enrichment of the broader community, but the county now views athletic and artistic training as beneficial to the individual and not the community.

Previously obtained credits earned through activities that now do not qualify for credit will remain valid.

Meador noted that students can still earn SSL hours in classes by completing service projects. However, such hours must be approved through the regular SSL submission process.

The new regulations, Meador said, resulted from a countywide effort to make SSL hours more meaningful for participants. She noted that other classes may soon lose their automatic SSL hours as well. "In the future," she said, "there will be fewer and fewer classes with SSL hours attached."

Maryland is the only state that requires SSL hours for high school graduation. To graduate, students must have 60 hours of documented service. Thirty hours are automatically acquired through middle school coursework.

In an attempt to improve the overall quality of the SSL program, the county formed the Superintendent's Advisory Board in January. Career and technology department resource teacher Robert Hopkins, a board member, said the board is conducting a far-reaching reexamination of SSL and is looking to "weed out" relatively insignificant activities.

While board members include students, parents, teachers and administrators, Hopkins said student input in the process is significantly underrepresented.

According to Hopkins, students who earn hours through the most demanding volunteer work learn from and enjoy their experiences the most.

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Jessica Stamler. Co-editor-in-chief Jessica Stamler is a senior in the CAP program at Blair High School. Besides Chips and academia, Jessica enjoys singing, writing, making music, and committing random acts of craziness. Her activities include: youth group, Blair gymnastics team, Students for Global Responsibility, and InTone Nation … More »

Stephen Wertheim. Co-editor-in-chief Stephen Wertheim is deeply committed to reporting, even when it conflicts with such essential life activities as food consumption, sleep and viewership of Seinfeld reruns. In addition to getting carried away with writing and playing violin, Stephen thoroughly enjoys visiting and photographing spots around … More »

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