Mandating Change: Assessing the Implementation of the Michigan Merit Curriculum

June 2010
Steven Byrd and Kasia Langer, University of Michigan

This report seeks to identify and quantify some of the challenges faced by districts as they push their students to higher academic levels in a time of fiscal hardship. We have conducted surveys and interviews of school and district level personnel from across the state to determine the major roadblocks to fully implementing the MMC as well as strategies that have been successful so that they may be replicated on a large scale.

In the pages that follow, we will first provide background information on national graduation requirements, course‐taking patterns of students not subject to the MMC, and studies conducted over the past twenty‐five years which attempt to draw connections between graduation requirements, academic course‐taking, high school graduation, student achievement, and future earnings. We will then discuss the methods of the study, including in‐depth interviews with key informants at the district and intermediate school district level and an online survey instrument distributed to high school principals across the state. We will also discuss the sampling methods and response rates, including any possible biases in the responses. We will then turn to a discussion of the results of our surveys, with a prioritized list of challenges faced by school leaders as they try to meet the requirements of the MMC. Finally, we will discuss both the largest challenges and successes across the state from a policy perspective – analyzing possible solutions and supports from the state level.