Michigan Schools Improve High School Graduation Requirements

By Patricia Hawke for Schools K-12

Michigan schools presented its new high school graduation requirements — the Michigan Merit Curriculum — in December 2005. The Michigan schools are determined to better prepare students for work and college success, by assuring that all students have the knowledge and skills needed to succeed.

Previous requirements for graduation in the Michigan schools reflected an economy and society that no longer exist, nor did they represent the real world demands of work and college. Michigan schools skills and course subjects that were once optional for students after graduation now are essential to enter college or the workforce. In a 2005 survey, only 24 percent of the graduates said they were significantly challenged during high school, while a recent survey showed one-in-five graduates thought expectations were low and it was easy to “slide by”.  National data indicate that academic achievement in high school reading, mathematics and science has been mostly stagnate for decades.

Michigan’s Governor Jennifer M. Granholm backs the new Michigan schools program, stating that the state’s economy will suffer if Michigan does not have a highly educated workforce. Her goal is to double the number of college graduates in Michigan, and the new Michigan schools high school graduation requirements will ensure the goal is met.

The new Michigan Merit Curriculum requires Michigan schools graduates to successfully complete both the Michigan Merit Core and the 21st Century Learning Core.  The new Michigan Merit Core consists of the following coursework:

  • English Language Arts, integrated Humanities sequence, or CTE sequence — 4 credits
  • Mathematics — 4 credits with one credit each in Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, AND an additional mathematics or mathematics-related credit in the senior year, integrated mathematics sequence, or CTE sequence
  • Science — 3 credits with one credit each in Biology, Physics or Chemistry, and one additional credit of science, integrated math sequence, or CTE sequence
  • Social Sciences — 3 credits
  • Civics and Economics — 5 credits
  • U.S. History and World History — 1 credit each, integrated with Geography, integrated Humanities sequence, or CTE sequence
  • World Languages — 2 credits
  • Health and Physical Education — 2 credits
  • Visual and Performing Arts — 1 credit

Additionally, students in their junior year must take the Michigan schools’ Michigan Merit Exam or the alternate MI-ACCESS assessment exam. Those who do not pass in their junior year have another opportunity to take the exam in the spring of their senior year.  Additionally, the Michigan schools are developing high school content expectations to serve as a guide to curriculum development for the school districts.

The Michigan schools new graduation requirements instill rigor into the high school coursework, but provides some flexibility for school district phase-in of the new requirements and student modification provisions in some limited situations. The new Michigan schools requirements begin with the freshman class in the fall of 2006.