With state officials seeking a more competitive work force, Michigan high school students could face a more rigorous curriculum, beginning next year.
That's if a proposal made yesterday by the state's education superintendent is approved by the state Board of Education and the Legislature.
Superintendent Mike Flanagan asked the board to approve a curriculum that would require students to have:
●Four years each of math, science, and English language arts classes.
●Three years of social science classes, including one semester each of civics and economics.
●One year of health or physical education.
●One year of fine arts classes.
Currently the only state requirement for students to graduate from high school is that they have one semester of civics.
The state board's president said she welcomed Mr. Flanagan's proposal.
"We have to have high expectations for all kids," Kathleen Straus said. "This really goes a long way to right the wrong all these years of only requiring civics for graduation.
"We can't keep doing everything we've been doing. Otherwise we'll be getting the same results," she said.
In southeast Michigan educators were not as thrilled about the proposed changes.
"It causes so many problems for us at a time when your state funding isn't sufficient," said Debby Kuhl, director of instruction and services for Bedford Public Schools. "It could cause us to add courses and [buy] new textbooks. Just the logistics alone presents all kinds of issues."
Bob Black, superintendent at Dundee Community Schools, said he has concerns of another nature about the proposed changes.
"For kids who don't go on to college, it's going to make it a lot harder for some of them to make it through high school," he said.
Mr. Black also believes the proposed changes are tilted toward students who favor science and math.
"I'm wondering if we're forgetting all kids don't go to school to become an engineer. Some go to be in fine arts. If there are not enough electives, those [students] in the fine arts could be overlooked, and that worries me."
Mr. Flanagan said the new requirements fill 16 of the 24 credit hours required for high school students to graduate, leaving eight credit hours for electives or career and technical education programs.
The new curriculum has been touted for months by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who has argued that the state's stagnant economy requires the boost that a more educated work force would bring.
Last year she appointed a commission to study the possibility of legislating higher academic standards.
She also has called for a doubling of the state's number of college graduates.
Yesterday officials in the governor's office said they were pleased with Mr. Flanagan's recommendations to the school board.
"We believe that a rigorous curriculum makes sense for every student," said Liz Boyd, the governor's spokesman. "We believe every student can benefit. It will help them to become critical thinkers."
The state board can vote on Mr. Flanagan's proposal at its Dec. 13 meeting, during which proposed revisions will be addressed.
When finalized, the proposal will go to the governor's office and the state legislature for approval.
Proponents of the proposal would like the new curriculum in place by the 2006-07 school year.
Summerfield High School Principal Scott Leach said he too has concerns about the proposed curriculum.
"Most of our students already follow a similar curriculum. The impact will be to students who might not be capable of doing the [new] classes," he said.
Ms. Kuhl said another group of students might be impacted adversely by the proposed changes, which she has studied.
"The part that surprised me the most is that there are no special parameters for students with disabilities," she said.
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