Mandating Merit: Assessing Implementation of the Michigan Merit Curriculum

June 2010

On April 20, 2006, Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm signed into law the Michigan Merit Curriculum (MMC) establishing some of the most ambitious core graduation requirements in the nation. The curriculum requires all students in the graduating class of 2011 and beyond to obtain sixteen credits in specific academic areas. While these requirements were designed to prepare Michigan high school graduates for college-level courses while positioning the state for a 21st century economy (Michigan Department of Education, 2006b), a number of problems have challenged schools implementing the MMC.

The MMC has made many substantive changes to local requirements, mandating that students take more challenging courses in order to graduate. As a result, Michigan schools must offer more classes in all core subject areas and ensure that students pass even the most rigorous courses in order to obtain their diplomas. One of the simplest ways to achieve this objective would be to hire additional teachers to staff these new courses, and tutors to help students succeed in them. However, with the state’s recent budget crises, school funding levels have either remained stagnant or decreased, placing even greater pressure on schools and districts to find creative ways to meet the demands of the Michigan Merit Curriculum.

This policy brief identifies some of the chief challenges faced by districts as they push their students to achieve higher academic standards in a time of fiscal hardship. In addition, to share best practices that can be replicated more broadly, this brief describes several of the strategies that districts have successfully undertaken to implement the MMC.