Schools fight tough classes
District officials testify before House panel that new graduation
requirements will increase dropouts.
Karen Bouffard / The Detroit News
LANSING -- Many of this year's freshmen are likely to drop out of school
because they can't pass the tough new mandatory classes -- especially the math,
school officials told state lawmakers Thursday.
"By having them leave high school without a diploma you doom them to a life
of poverty, and doom their children to a life of poverty," said Rebecca Rocho,
an assistant superintendent with the Calhoun County Intermediate School
District. She was among several school officials giving testimony to a House
education subcommittee looking into how the requirements are working out.
She said the new requirements could mean some kids leave school after four
years without a diploma because they can't pass all the classes.
Beginning with kids who will finish ninth grade this month, Michigan students
must pass a full slate of college prep English, science, social studies and
math classes -- including algebra I and algebra II -- to get their diplomas.
State Rep. Joel Sheltrown, D-West Branch, has introduced a bill to allow dual
diplomas, so that those who can't master the tough courses can still
graduate. But state schools Superintendent Mike Flanagan has asked lawmakers to stay
the course, insisting kids can master the material.
Mary Alice Galloway, a senior adviser with the state Department of Education,
said the law has greater flexibility than many school districts realize. The
state law allows schools to modify the curriculum for special education
students. At a parent's request, the school can develop a personal curriculum
that would scale requirements to a student's capability.
General education students can spread algebra II out over two years, Galloway
added. If that doesn't work, the student can replace the second year of
algebra II with an alternative math-related course.
Schools also are told to consider allowing a fifth year of high school if
students need it. Districts can receive state aid for students until their 21st
birthday, or through age 26 for special education students.
Also, some credit can be given for math learned in career and technical
courses, provided the vocational education teacher collaborates with a highly
qualified math teacher on how to teach the math concepts.
Bottom line, students must learn the math because it's what employers demand,
"If you're looking at lowering the bar ... what you're really saying is we're
lowering the options for students," Galloway said.
Still, Robert LeFevre, director of legal and legislative affairs for the
Macomb Intermediate School District, said the requirements could keep some
students from getting a diploma.
"We want to avoid state policy that condemns a student to a life of poverty
if they don't excel in one academic area," LeFevre said.
You can reach Karen Bouffard at (734) 462-2206 or _kbouffard@...
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