Letter from state superintendent Mike Flanagan

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Mike Flanagan

Michigan educators, along with educators from several other states, have been challenged in recent months to implement some of the highest high school graduation requirements in the nation. These standards are tied to credits aligned with a nationally vetted set of content expectations.  Although this is a fitting challenge for our times, this transition from course titles and seat time to credit tied to content expectations has introduced a new way of thinking about how to develop, align, and deliver the Michigan Merit Curriculum.

After conversations with administrators and associations, I think it is important to address some of the questions, frustrations and, perhaps, misconceptions that have surrounded the implementation of the Michigan Merit Curriculum. I also intend to clarify some confusion about the purpose of the High School Content Expectations (HSCEs) and their relationship to earning the required credits toward graduation.

Michigan's 911 high school content expectations in the areas of mathematics, social studies, English language arts, and science arose from the collective wisdom of dozens of top-notch educators and content specialists who had the very highest goals in mind for Michigan's youth.  However, some of the content expectations represent very detailed concepts, while others represent big picture ideas. The large number of content expectations has created a situation at the local level where educators are overwhelmed and not sure where to focus their curriculum design efforts.

The content expectations should serve as a guide to local districts and intermediate school districts/regional educational service agencies in the development of appropriate curriculum to meet the college and career ready goal that is reflected in the high school graduation requirements, the Michigan Merit Curriculum, and the Michigan Merit Examination. They should not be viewed as a list of items that must be checked off one by one. With only so many instructional hours available each year, we know that there is no way for schools to cover in depth every HSCE, nor should districts make that attempt.

Suggestions on Where to Start
The ACT College Readiness Standards(tm) document is a good starting place for making decisions on what content expectations need emphasis in the curriculum. The College Readiness Standards and Benchmarks are closely aligned with the HSCEs and are the minimum assessment standards for passing the ACT. Since the Michigan Merit Examination is largely composed of the ACT(r), it is wise to identify and focus on the related HSCEs. Follow this link to access the ACT College Readiness Standards and Benchmarks(tm): http://www.act.org/standard/index.html

Several ISDs and school districts have already begun the work of developing "power," "target," "essential skills" or "focus" standards by combining similar HSCEs, grouping, or clustering the more "grain-sized" content expectations within the broader HSCEs. This approach also allows for shaping interdisciplinary learning. These power or target standards could help districts make decisions on how to award credit in that subject area.

Additionally, the development of personal curriculum options and the development of credit bearing options in instructional delivery methods like career and technical education, dual enrollment, advanced placement, and international baccalaureate programs can be facilitated when districts award credit by clustering or grouping the content expectations that align with each program.

Using the HSCEs to measure progress toward credit

We've heard it asked, "Where is the accountability if all local districts can determine the number of content expectations the curriculum will address or the content expectations that will be used to determine credit?"

To this question we answer, "We have great faith in our educators at the local level to design and develop a rigorous, relevant curriculum, using the high school content expectations as a guide."

Curriculum development is always a "work in progress." We recognize that this is especially true as we implement the Michigan Merit Curriculum.  We realize that there is still much work to do at the State level to assist the local districts as they implement the Michigan Merit Curriculum in a way that meets the needs of all students. We remain committed to this assistance.

Resources
The Michigan Department of Education, along with the ISDs, have developed several useful tools and documents to help the local districts design curriculum to align with the HSCEs. Visit the MDE web site:

High school page: http://www.michigan.gov/mde/0,1607,7-140-38924---,00.html

Michigan Merit Curriculum pages:

MAISA collects and posts Instructional Resources such as Power Standards, CTE Crosswalks, Personal Curriculum tools and more in its Resources section at  http://www.gomaisa.org/Resources/InstructionalResources/tabid/459/Default.aspx .

As we partner in raising student achievement and ensuring Michigan's children are equipped to be successful in an increasingly competitive global economy, I hope you'll support this important dialogue by including the above information in your newsletters and other outreach resources. My best to all of you. m

Ingham County Power Standards

H.S. Chemistry Essential Learning Targets Draft  - This document is an example of what some groups are putting together to help all students meet the standards. Other resources can be found at:

Science - http://www.michigan.gov/mde/0,1607,7-140-38924_41644_42814---,00.html

MAISA collects and posts Instructional Resources such as Power Standards, CTE Crosswalks, Personal Curriculum tools and more in its Resources section at http://www.gomaisa.org/Resources/InstructionalResources/tabid/459/Default.aspx.