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Published: Thursday, 4/27/2006

Curriculum change has two edges

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MONROE - With the signing by Gov. Jennifer Granholm into law last week of a pair of tough, new curriculum requirements for high school students, Monroe County school officials are faced with what some say is a daunting task to implement them.

"It's a lot of change. Not that change is bad; we're used to it. But it's happening pretty quickly," said Stephen McNew, the Monroe school district's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

Under the new legislation, students will be required to take 4 credits each of math and English, 3 each in science and social studies, and 1 each in physical education and the arts.

In a second piece of legislation, two credits of foreign language will be required to graduate, but will first affect students graduating in 2016.

"Some kids are going to think these new standards are tough," Ms. Granholm said after she signed the bill. "You better believe they are. Because the global economy is tough."

Some credits can be satisfied at the middle-school level and earlier in the case of foreign language. Students can switch from the mandatory curriculum to more personalized plans in certain cases. The state's only current requirement was a civics class, with all other requirements left to local school boards.

But a number of officials are concerned about finding the money for the extra effort and personnel they believe it will take to implement the program.

"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."

Mr. McNew has similar feelings. He believes students will require tutoring and that some will have to take summer classes. "Where are the funds going to come from?" he asked.

Also a concern is having enough teachers to handle the new duties. "Personnel might be an issue. It could affect the teaching staff at many of the high schools," he said.

With 18 of the 24 credits needed to graduate now required, some educators worry that it is unfair for many students.

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," Mr. Black said.

Mr. Black also believes the proposed changes are tilted toward students who favor science and math.

Mr. McNew also believes students will lose the flexibility to take fine arts and technical education courses - classes that could be just as valuable for their futures.

"They are losing that option," he said.

Also problematic, according to Mr. McNew, is the fact that high schools will be moving from using Michigan Educational Assessment Program test scores to measure high school students' performance to the ACT test next year.

"That will require a lot of work, and now they're throwing [the new curriculum] at us," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact George Tanber

at gtanber@theblade.com

or 734-241-3610.



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