LPS prepares for new graduation standards

In April 2008, Governor Granholm signed into law the most comprehensive set of high school graduation requirements in the nation. The new law outlining the Michigan Merit Plan (MMPlan) will impact every student who attends a public high school beginning with this year’s eighth graders.

Three part plan
The plan is comprised of three components: the Michigan Merit Curriculum, which calls for increased credit hours required for graduation; High School Course Content Expectations, which form the basis for what will be taught in every course; and the Michigan Merit Exam, which will replace the existing high school MEAP test.

Part I
The MMPlan’s first component will see the number of required credits in core curriculum areas for graduation from LPS jump from 12 to 16 for next year’s freshmen. The impact on future elective opportunities for students is to be determined. A comparison of the district’s current requirements in each of the four core academic areas reveals the need to increase credit requirements by a half credit to one-and-a-half credits, depending on the subject area. 

For example, LPS currently requires 3.5 credits in English Language Arts (ELA) to graduate. The new system calls for 4.0 credits. In mathematics the jump is higher, with the state mandating 4.0 credits as opposed to the current 2.5 credits required by the district. Courses must include Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II and a math credit taken during the senior year.

In science and social studies the difference between the state and the district is only .5 credits, with the state requiring 3.0 as opposed to the current 2.5 credits in LPS. Mandated science courses will include biology, chemistry and/or physics plus one additional science credit.  The state’s social studies curriculum calls for classes in civics, economics, and geography integrated in US History and world history.

The district and the state match up in the area of health & physical education requiring a total of 1.0 credit. But the district will need to add 1.0 credit in visual, performing and applied arts; 2.0 credits in world languages, beginning with the graduating class of 2016; and an online learning experience.

Part II
Under the second component of the plan, the state is providing high school course content expectations as the basis of what students will learn. To date, course content expectations for ELA, mathematics, science, and the online learning experience have been released, with the promise for social studies by spring 2007. Content expectations in health & physical education, visual/performing/applied arts, and world languages are still being written.

Financial implications for the district will be significant, since changing sequence of courses and their content will require new textbooks and instructional materials to be purchased in all content
areas as well as teacher training, according to Sheila Alles, director of Academic Services.

Part III
The final component of the plan introduces the new three day Michigan Merit Exam (MME), designed to replace the existing high school MEAP in mid-March 2007.

According to Alles, the district is embracing the challenge to implement the mandated changes with active planning and preparation.  District curriculum coordinators in all subject areas have formed staff committees to study content expectations to align our courses with the state model, review materials, devise professional training opportunities for teachers and research best practices for teaching the subject areas.