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.