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Week of June 21, 2010

Michigan principals face challenges with new requirements

As this year’s graduating seniors begin a new chapter in their lives, a new U-M report indicates many in next year’s senior class should be concerned about not wearing a cap and gown.

Some seniors in the Class of 2011 might fail to meet new stricter graduation requirements through the Michigan Merit Curriculum, according to the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy.

The center, located in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, released its report highlighting the challenges that Michigan schools, especially in poor areas, face in implementing the rigorous course requirements associated with the MMC.

“The findings raise concern about the ability of disadvantaged schools to effectively implement the new mandates,” says Brian Jacob, who directs CLOSUP.

Teachers and administrators are working to find creative ways to adapt to the new regime, he says.

As the first MMC cohort progresses through its senior year in 2010-11, the state and district leaders will need to closely monitor student success rates, CLOSUP officials say.

In April 2006 Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed into law the MMC. The curriculum requires all students in the graduating class of 2011 and beyond to obtain 17 credits in specific academic areas. Previously, the state required only that students take a state government or civics credit in order to graduate, which some legislators and educators felt the lenient mandate left many students ill-prepared for a college-level curriculum.

Michigan students now would be required to take four English courses, four math courses, three science courses, three social studies courses, one visual/performing arts course, one physical education course and an “online learning experience.”

Beginning with the class of 2016, students also would be required to complete two world languages courses. In all, the MMC would eventually require all students obtaining a high school diploma from the state of Michigan to complete 19 courses.

Michigan schools must offer more classes in all core subject areas and ensure that students pass even the most rigorous courses in order to obtain their diplomas, Jacob says. One way to achieve this objective would be to hire additional teachers to staff these new courses, and tutors to help students succeed in them. However, with the state’s recent budget crises, school funding levels have either remained stagnant or decreased, he said.

Through an online survey, 238 high school principals across the state reported on the implementation of the Michigan Merit Curriculum.

The need to add courses and sections to cover higher enrollment in core subject areas prompted principals statewide to hire new teachers. Finding qualified teachers was sometimes a challenge, principals reported.

More than half of the principals surveyed (55 percent) indicated another challenge involved student preparation entering high school. These students did not have the prerequisite knowledge and skills to be immediately successful in the MMC without substantial remediation and support.

Given that the MMC placed much higher constraints on student schedules than previous curricula, many schools opted to alter their schedules to provide more opportunities for students to earn credits by expanding the number of courses they can complete in any given year.

 

STAFF SPOTLIGHT

Betty Roon, registered nurse, University Hospital, on connecting with terminally ill patients and their families: “Just sitting with them and being an advocate for them — it’s just an honor.”

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