School districts would have more say in curriculum choices under Bumstead legislation

LANSING, Mich.State Sen. Jon Bumstead on Thursday introduced legislation that would give more flexibility to local school districts when choosing graduation requirements.

“Our current requirements don’t always allow students to explore possibilities that might better suit their interests or needs,” said Bumstead, R-Newaygo. “These requirements sometimes stifle student creativity and exploration and do not always allow students to be prepared for life after high school if those plans do not include college.”

The Michigan Merit Curriculum (MMC) went into effect in 2006 and created statewide requirements for all high school students. Prior to the MMC being adopted, graduation requirements were left up to the local school districts.

Currently, students who follow the traditional route in Michigan must complete the following courses and credits to receive a high school diploma:

  • Four credits in English;
  • Four credits in mathematics (required: algebra I, geometry and algebra II);
  • One credit making up both physical education and health;
  • Three credits in science;
  • Three credits in social studies (required: U.S. history and geography, world history and geography, one-half credit in economics and civics);
  • One credit in visual, performing and applied arts; and
  • Two credits in world language.

Senate Bills 600 and 601 would eliminate some specific merit curriculum course credit requirements, which would allow more opportunities for students to enroll in career and technical education or skilled trades training. Specifically, the bill would eliminate the algebra II requirement, giving students the chance to take other classes that might better prepare them for their future.

“Michigan is one of only seven states in the U.S. that require the completion of algebra II for graduation,” Bumstead said. “Algebra II is not appropriate for every student, and it’s time we focus on a student’s individual needs. We should be making sure students are ready for that next step after high school, whether that be entering the workforce or heading off to college.

“There are other avenues to becoming a successful adult beyond a traditional college degree.”

Bumstead said that ultimately the goal is to give school districts the ability to make choices that are best for them, rather than mandating districts across the state follow a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all policy.

“Parents, teachers and administrators know what’s best for their students, and I believe school districts in Michigan can do even better when it comes to giving students flexibility to succeed,” Bumstead said. “This legislation will allow them to do just that.”

Both bills have been referred to the Senate Committee on Education and Career Readiness for further consideration.