Snyder OKs changes to high school graduation rules

MARQUETTE – Gov. Rick Snyder signed changes in Michigan’s high school graduation rules Wednesday that will allow students to meet some math and foreign language requirements through materials woven into certain technical and arts classes.

One provision gives students the flexibility to meet the algebra II credit by taking welding or another career tech class with the mathematics content embedded in it.

“We want to make sure students have options for career-oriented courses that include material from rigorous subjects and that maintain high educational standards,” Snyder said in a statement. “Career-technical classes play an important role in developing talent and helping open opportunities for students for jobs of today and tomorrow.”

Michigan also currently requires students to complete two years of a foreign language. But under the provision signed by Snyder, students for the next six years will be able to fulfill half the requirement in a career tech or art class.

Plus, there will be flexibility for students who need one year of health and physical education: They can take a half-credit of health and count extracurricular activities as a half-credit in gym.

The legislation was sponsored by state Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, who also worked closely with other Michigan legislators to get it passed.

“The current high school curriculum credit requirements are very rigid and students can struggle to find room for elective classes and those that can lay a foundation for a future career interest,” McBroom said in a news release. “It’s been said over and over, as nice a goal as attending college is, there are so many reasons and variables that it doesn’t work out for all students. It’s important that everybody be able to find an education path that suits their needs and interests, and by modifying the merit curriculum this little bit, more students will be able to find that success.”

During a recent taping of Media Meet, state Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette, said the legislation allows Michigan to better prepare its kids for their future.

“Everywhere we went, we kept hearing the term, ‘Well, why are you trying to dumb down the standards?’ and I finally snapped at one committee meeting and I said, you know, I find that personally insulting,” said Kivela, who co-sponosred the legislation. “I was a mechanic for 20 years, OK? It’s not dumbing down. It’s about giving people choices.”

Media Meet will air at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on WNMU Public TV 13 and again at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

“Some of the changes in the bills are things that already were allowed through guidance we provided to local school districts, and were being done by many districts already,” state Education Department spokesman Martin Ackley told The Associated Press in an email. He said changes included embedding the higher-level math content into vocational and technical classes and allowing for foreign language credits before ninth grade.

“These bills put those things into state law, which we feel is fine,” Ackley said. “We certainly support the greater focus on the importance of career and technical programs for students across Michigan, and the need to teach higher-level math and science content in those programs.”

Some education groups had criticized the bills earlier this year, saying that the provisions would water down Michigan’s strict high school graduation requirements.

“As principals, we’ve been advocates from the start to maintain high standards,” Wendy Zdeb-Roper, executive director of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, told MLive.com earlier this month. “Every principal of a comprehensive high school has (career and technical) programs under their roof. We’re able to make it work for students to complete the Michigan Merit Curriculum and get them in those … programs.”

But House Education Committee chair Lisa Posthumus Lyons said the measures boost Michigan’s career education programs.

“This legislation is about training a 21st-century workforce,” Lyons, R-Alto, said. “Michigan students are diverse in interest and personality and this legislation gives these students the best possible options to pursue the type of education best suited for them.”

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.