Several months ago, Ford and General Motors announced that they will cut tens of thousands of jobs over the next few years. In her state of the state address on January 25, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm discussed the unique impact the layoffs will have in Michigan, “Wherever we live in Michigan, we know that as our auto industry struggles in this global economy, our people feel that pain more than in any other state in the country.” During that speech, the governor laid out a bold agenda that focused on education and on job creation. A key part of her plan was a more rigorous core curriculum for all Michigan high school students. On April 20, her vision came to fruition when she signed a law mandating that, beginning with the class of 2011, all Michigan high school students fulfill tougher graduation requirements.
“Some kids are going to think that these standards are tough. You better believe they are,” Granholm said at a signing ceremony that included a group of middle school students. “Competition is tough. Times are tough, and you’re going to have to be tough, too. We are not messing around.” She also said that the change is necessary to improve Michigan’s workforce and to adequately prepare for an economy that is losing its traditional manufacturing base.
Under the new requirements, high school students in the class of 2011 will have to pass 4 credits of math and English, 3 credits of science and social studies, 1 credit of physical education and health, 1 credit of visual, performing, or applied arts, and 1 online course. Beginning with the class of 2016, 2 years of foreign language, which can be fulfilled in elementary, middle school, or high school, will also be required. Previously, 1 semester of civics was Michigan’s only statewide graduation requirement.
In the state legislature, concerns about some students’ ability to pass Algebra II almost killed the bill’s chances for passage. However, a compromise was reached that will allow struggling students to opt out of a half-credit of Algebra II, but only with parent and counselor consent. The opt-out would also allow students to substitute other core courses for some of the requirements in social studies, arts, and physical education and health.
More information is available in Governor Granholm’s press release at http://www.michigan.gov/gov/0,1607,7-168–141369–,00.html.
|Quotable: Reading is the Key
“All the talk about science and engineering and math matters nothing if the children cannot read. The first step toward making sure our children have the skills of the 21st century is to insist upon a solid reading program that works.”
Read the entire speech at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/04/20060419-5.html.
|Eight States Join State Scholars Initiative
The U.S. Department of Education has selected eight new states to participate in the State Scholars Initiative (SSI), a national business/education partnership effort that works to increase the number of students who take a rigorous curriculum in high school. The new states are Colorado, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Carolina, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.
“Rigorous academic coursework in high school is the critical foundation students need whether they plan to attend college or enter the workforce,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. “In today’s global economy, we must encourage students to pursue more challenging courses of study in high school to better prepare them and put them on a path towards future success.”
Each state will receive up to $300,000 over a 2-year period to implement SSI programs in at least four school districts that will help motivate students to complete rigorous high school courses that prepare them for college and the workforce. Under the program, business volunteers make classroom presentations to eighth-grade students before they select their high school course loads. Presentations focus on the career options and monetary benefits that students can enjoy as a result of taking challenging courses. The program also provides students with academic support, incentives, and special recognition that can help ensure their success.
The SSI’s recommended curriculum includes 4 years of English, 3 years of math (Algebra I, Algebra II, and geometry), 3 years of lab science (biology, chemistry, and physics), 3½ years of social studies (chosen from U.S. and world history, geography, economics, and government), and 2 years of a foreign language. The 8 new states join 14 others previously chosen for participation: Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Washington. President Bush’s budget request for fiscal year 2007 includes $8 million to expand the program to additional states.
More information on the SSI is available at http://www.wiche.edu/statescholars/.