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43368Schools fight tough classes

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  • mzsuzuki@aol.com
    Jun 9, 2008
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      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,
      Galloway said.
      "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@..._
      (mailto:kbouffard@...) .

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