MAKING THE GRADE: Some education bills being considered require our response

By Darrin Clark • Last Updated 11:04 am on Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Guest View | Janet Ralph

For several weeks we have been discussing the history and philosophy of public education. Now it is time to put that information into practice. Some bills have been introduced in Lansing that merit response from the citizens that they will impact.

One of the sources that I use to follow legislation is a report published regularly by the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB). The Greenville board has been a member of this organization for many years. We value the research done by their staff members who devote many hours to following the action in Lansing. They provide regular reports to MASB members.

The current issue of their report discusses House Bills 4465 and 4466 that have been passed by the House Education Committee. These bills are of interest because they propose creating more flexibility in the Michigan Merit Curriculum (MMC) and in the personal curriculum options associated with the graduation requirements framework.

I call your attention to them because this is a topic about which I have heard many comments from parents and staff members. There seems to be considerable concern that the MMC as currently written is too inflexible to meet the needs of all students. I, for one, have been concerned about this from the beginning. I support a serious discussion about improving more options for students while continuing to have high expectations for student performance.

According to the MASB report, the changes proposed are not about reducing standards, but rather about increasing flexibility. Certain students feel they have been hampered by scheduling conflicts, inflexible content requirements, or limitations that may have been created because students attend a smaller school district. House Bill 4465 makes changes to the Algebra II and foreign language requirements. The changes allow more career and technical education programs to count as Algebra II while still providing students the knowledge necessary to be successful on state exams, and perhaps better prepared to apply math knowledge in career settings.

House Bill 4466 focuses on personal curriculum. Current language allows for limited flexibility in the social sciences, mathematics, health and visual, performing arts or applied arts. The changes would address scheduling conflicts that currently exist by opening more opportunities for substitution of classes.

Another change regards the current requirement for three credits of science and the classes that can be used to meet those requirements.

There will surely be changes in these bills as they move through the process. It will be important to watch their progress.

I realize the above comments barely scratch the surface of the content of these bills. However, it appears that legislators may be listening to some of the same concerns that I have heard. If you are a person who has these concerns, I urge you to contact your representative and ask for further information about these bills and express your opinion. We can’t complain that we are not heard if we never speak. To assist you in the process, I am including some information about how to contact your representatives.

How to contact your representatives:

• Gov. Rick Snyder

• Sen. Judy Emmons SenJEmmons@senate.michigan.govRepresentative Rick Outman

• Sen. Mark Jansen

• Rep. Peter MacGregor

 Janet Ralph is president of the Greenville Public Schools Board of Education.

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