Sunday, December 11, 2005


Michigan High School Graduation Requirments To Change

State Superintendent Flanagan proposes Michigan Merit Curriculum

New Proposal May Bring Different Meaning To High School For Students and Educators

For many teens, beginning high school is like starting a whole new chapter of your life. There are so many changes to adjust to while also gaining just as many new responsibilities. From getting up earlier to taking college entrance tests, high school students have busy schedules. Often, the most successful high school students have a rigorous class schedule while taking part in extra curricular activities like sports or clubs. These same students often have part-time jobs to earn extra spending money. Activities outside of school, like participating in youth groups and volunteering are also things that look great on college applications. As a result, the “well-rounded” high school student finds time to fit activities like these into their hectic schedules. However for many Michigan students expected to begin high school in the fall, these busy schedules may need to require a considerably larger amount of study time.

State of Michigan Superintendent Michael Flanagan has released a proposal to dramatically toughen Michigan high school graduation requirements. The proposal known as the Michigan Merit Curriculum is heading towards quick approval by the State Board of Education and as a result, students could be affected by these changes beginning in the fall. Currently the state of Michigan only requires a credit of civics for graduation. The Michigan Merit Curriculum proposed by Flanagan would require students to earn four credits in English or Language arts, (including writing, speaking, literature, reading, culture, and language) four credits of mathematics, (including algebra one and two, geometry and one additional math class) three credits of science, (including biology, physics or chemistry and one other science class)and three credits of social studies,(including a half-year of government and economics and a full year of U.S. history and world history) In addition, one credit of health/physical education and another in fine arts or music will be required. These changes will fill 16 of the 24 credits that consist of the four years of high school. The remaining eight credits will be elective classes chosen by the students. To say the least, these changes could dramatically alter how many students look at high school.

It’s important to keep in mind that in Michigan, each school district has its own graduation requirements in addition to the state’s requirement (currently only civics) For example this means that one district may currently only require three years of English to graduate and another may require four. The Michigan Merit Curriculum would unify graduation requirements across the state. Advocates of the proposal and Flanagan feel that with Michigan’s changing economy students need to be better equipped for post-secondary education. Across the nation, most states have stricter requirements to graduate compared to Michigan. The Michigan Merit Curriculum has students and parents talking about what high school could mean in the near future.

Danielle Chiolero of Clinton Township will begin high school next year. The teachers at her middle school haven’t mentioned The Michigan Merit Curriculum and this was the first she’s heard of it. “I don’t like it, I can’t believe it’s so strict and I have to take four years of math,” Chiolero said about the proposal. Even though she plans on attending college, Danielle says she never thought she would have to take so many required courses. “I don’t even know what economics is,” the eighth grader said when she learned that the new proposal will require a semester of it. Danielle also said that the extra work load will not stop her from trying out for the soccer team. Danielle’s mother Linda wasn’t so sure about this and had mixed feelings about the proposal.

“I think this will be great for college preparation but it seems like they are so many requirements already,” said Danielle’s mother. Linda feels like the requirements for graduation should be the same across the nation and just assumed that they were. “There are enough disadvantages that kids suffer from without having to worry about school districts having different graduation requirements,” said Linda. On the other hand, Danielle’s mom Linda feels like her generation was not prepared enough for college. She feels like this program will force kids to take college preparatory classes and give them an equal chance to compete with students from across the nation. Linda said, “This proposal should have been put into action a long time ago.” Danielle’s mother is not the only person that feels like this. The Michigan Merit Curriculum will also have a great affect on a number of educators across the state.

Ryan Kay, a history teacher with Warren Consolidated Schools feels that many teachers who teach elective courses may have to teach required classes to keep their jobs in the near future. “Teachers are going back to become certified to teach subjects that will be required with the new graduation plan.” Kay says the majority of students don’t like the proposal because they want as many options as possible. “Students dread taking the next required course in certain subjects, such as math and science,” says Kay. Kay also says that students who are not college bound are at a disadvantage because this limits the career preparatory courses they can take like ones in auto shop and daycare. “In a sense, this forces students to go to college,” Kay says about the Michigan Merit Curriculum. This proposal could mean more students enrolling in summer school and staying after the regular school day to graduate on time says Kay. Another option will be online courses that many districts are beginning to offer says the history teacher. This feature will tie in with another part of The Michigan Merit Curriculum that will require all students to complete at least one on-line credit.

The proposal will also require all high school students to take the Michigan Merit Exam or MEAP tests for graduation. The Michigan Merit Curriculum would begin the freshmen class next year if all necessary legislation is complete by March 1, 2006. If the legislation is not endorsed by this date, the changes would go into affect by 2007. The State Board will study Flanagan’s Michigan’s Merit Curriculum and come back with suggestions on how to improve Michigan’s schools in a meeting on December 13th.

For More Information:
  • Presentation of Proposed High School Graduation Requirements

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