Mar 3, 2008

State Superintendent: Don't Water Down New Grad Standards

LANSING -- Just months after the governor signed the Michigan Merit Curriculum into law, a move that enacted one of the most comprehensive sets of high school graduation requirements in the nation, some parents are complaining that the higher standards will cause more students to fail or drop out. But a number of officials are warning against giving in to pressure to ease the requirements.

The House Education High School Alternatives Subcommittee began holding hearings on the subject Thursday. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan told the subcommittee it was far too early to begin diluting the requirements. The new curriculum was signed into law on April 20, 2006.

“I’m asking that we don’t water this down until we see the effectiveness of it,” Flanagan said.

The bipartisan effort was aimed at educating a workforce that is ready to compete in a global, knowledge-based 21st century economy. It requires four credits of math, including algebra I and II. It also includes a requirement for completing an online course or learning experience.

Lawmakers say it’s their responsibility to ensure the curriculum is allowing all students to achieve success. “I think it is our responsibility to take a moment to reflect on the standards,” said Rep. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor, the chair of the subcommittee. "That's something we don't want to take a departure from in any large measurable way,"

Flanagan said he believes the state is headed in the right direction. It is trying to correct a situation in which Michigan is below the national average for residents who hold at least a bachelor’s degree. The 2004 Cherry Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth said Michigan’s economic future depends on increasing that percentage.

“There was a period in this state that you could be a high school dropout and still have a place up north and drive a pretty nice car,” Flanagan said. “That’s done.”

Flanagan said because of this new, higher standard, Michigan has been seen as a national leader in education, and the state has received great publicity. He said watering down the requirements would make the high school diplomas less valuable, and he also said there is room for electives that turn out well-rounded students.

“Critics say it throws out the arts and electives, but that’s just garbage,” he said.

The subcommittee took no action and plans to continue to take testimony.


Susan Alderman said...

The Michigan Merit Curriculum is nothing more than a knee jerk reaction to a crappy economy brought on by the failures of outsourcing and trickle down economics.

As a teacher and mother, I see this as a train wreck in the making, and innocent Michigan students will be in the wreckage.

My daughter plans a career in social science and writing, and these new policies dishonor her own aspirations.

She is drawing pictures in freshman English instead of writing essays and literary analysis.

She is in two math classes in order to pass Algebra, a subject she will never use, probably ever, in her chosen career.

These policies will sh#t-can kids who want to be laborers or work in the skilled trades.

Whatever happened to the idea of Multiple intelligences?

I thought only Texas schools came up with such ridiculous ideas.

Communications guru said...

Thanks for your comments, Susan.

Although I'm not up on education issues as much as I once was when I was an education reporter and should be, I think education will be the biggest factor in turning our economy around. In a high-tech world, I don't see how any one can be successful without at least two years of post- high school education. With that in mind, I'm not sure the Michigan Merit Curriculum is really a bad idea.

I avoided math in high school like the plague, and Algebra was a new experience when I finally decided to go to college. I joined the military right out of high school, and did not begin taking college courses until later in life. Algebra was a major hurdle for me to get over.

As a teacher, you know students better than I, but haven't we fallen behind other industrial nations in education?

I am alarmed at the drop out numbers, however, and I think that needs to be addressed. I don't want to thrown out any kids either. There has to be a balance somewhere.

Susan Alderman said...

Dear C.G.,

I am all for raising standards, Guru, but let's let the students choose which areas they must accelerate. Surely you don't believe this plan will someday create an engineering position for every graduate? And do you really believe every graduate wants to be an engineer?

This system will be creating "off ramps" for students. Meaning dropouts and GED holders.

This was a purely political move that has no basis in educational theory. All I ever heard as a young teacher was one day we will have the money to lower class sizes and teach to the individual. Why? Because we knew those were key ingredients to effective teaching. Now that we have given up on ever properly funding and structuring education, we create this highway to san Aldermanhell. And guess who will take the blame when it all fails? Teachers' unions. How perfect.

Susan Alderman said...


Just wanted to include I am a liberal and proud of it. Voted for Jennifer Granholm, of course. Not sure I would have if I had known more about the sh#tstorm of a mistake she was making for Michigan students. My bad, there.

Do some independent research on cut testing and its effects on teaching and learning.

And, remember, we are doing this to our studetns at a time least favorable to properly funding this undertaking. We now have 21st century expectations for students, but schools are delivering services with twentieth century problems: high class sizes, school violence, generalized instruction, and inadequate funding.

Thanks for listening.