Seven years ago, the State of Michigan enacted a rigorous set of statewide high school graduation requirements. They are among the toughest in the nation.
At Marquette Senior High School, the requirements caused administrators to restructure the school day and course offerings. Now the issue is being revisited.
On Thursday, 108th District State Representative Ed McBroom and fellow Republican, State Senator John Proos from St. Joseph, are expected to announce they are working on legislation that would make "minimal, but meaningful changes" for high schools students. The two lawmakers want certain career and technical education, or CTE courses, to substitute for certain math requirements and incorporate more math.
MSHS senior Noah Paquette has taken wood shop classes since sixth grade. He wanted to learn more about metals and autos by taking those extra classes, but his early years of high school were controlled by the state's graduation requirements.
"I think they should let lower classmen be able to take a lot more shop classes just because it kind of breaks up their day and they're doing something constructive," said Paquette.
Marquette Area Public Schools' Superintendent Debbie Veiht hopes to see the requirements adjusted.
"High school is where you should be exploring and trying out new things, and it's actually curtailed that for our students," said Veiht.
At MSHS, there are now fewer students enrolling in music and CTE courses because they have to fulfill requirements like two years of a foreign language and four years of math, including Algebra II. That class is tough for some students at the school. MSHS is helping students get through it by having them take an extra math support class.
"By taking that one extra hour to support your math, that means you can't take an extra foreign language, or band, or metal shop, and that's what's pretty tough for some of our kids, and that's what they live to come to school for," Veiht said.
McBroom said he wants to eliminate the Algebra II requirement, replacing it with technical math courses like statistics or trigonometry or CTE courses that include more math.
"I'm just trying to have a broader base of options available for some of the students, some flexibility," said McBroom.
MSHS senior Katie Carey, who said the graduation requirements prevented her from taking more music courses, thinks combining areas of study is a good idea.
"Trying to do more cross curriculum and combining interests would be a really good idea to work with those requirements from the state," said Carey.
Veiht said individual districts don't have the resources to develop this type of curriculum.
"If there was something that was more standardized from the state and accepted by the state, I think that would be the best way to go," she said.
McBroom is also proposing that foreign languages be taught earlier, in elementary and middle schools. He has worked with school administrators and trade leaders to come up with these ideas, so students are prepared to enter into their workforce of choice after graduation.
"Right now, we're really directing students away from those opportunities most of the time," he said.
Other changes could include allowing certain extra-curricular activities to count for part of a student's physical education requirement. Also, he wants opportunities for personalized curriculum to be broadened.
McBroom expects hearings on the matter next month, starting in the House Education Committee. He said he encourages feedback and interaction on the issue.
Veiht said regardless of what happens in Lansing, she is glad the requirements are being reviewed.