(Note: In a Nov. 22
commentary, Mackinac Center Director of Education Policy Ryan S. Olson
questioned proponents’ claims that new statewide graduation requirements would
definitely improve Michigan’s public education system. Since the state assessment test
taken by Michigan juniors demonstrates that students
don’t have a solid grasp on civics — the current single graduation requirement —
Olson doubted that new requirements will produce a different result.
In response to his
commentary, Olson received the following e-mail query from a state legislator:
"I am told by a colleague that most high schools do not require civics until
12th grade, while the MEAP is taken in the 11th grade, which, of course, would
skew the results. Please verify the accuracy of that statement." Olson’s slightly revised reply
Thank you for your e-mail.
It may be the case that some
school districts don’t require civics until the 12th grade; however, this proves
my point even further.
State law allows
government/civics classes to be taken anytime in grades 9-12. However, since the
state assesses civics competency in the 11th grade, it would make far more sense
for the state to require students to take a civics class by the spring of their
junior year. The state would then be able to quantify the effectiveness of its
single graduation requirement to some extent.
When drafting regulations,
state bureaucrats should have realized that if a civics class is so important
that it is imposed on students by state law, then, following this logic, the state should also establish a
way to make sure students are learning the subject. That certainly seems to be
the spirit of state Superintendent Mike Flanagan’s proposed and expanded
As it stands now, students can
be tested after taking a civics course or they can be tested when they have not
— in strictly curricular terms — received any civics instruction. In the latter
case, students would receive civics instruction after they've taken the state’s
only academic measurement instrument, which means the state will have no idea
whether graduates are competent or not.
The bottom line is that
bureaucrats have failed in implementing a state law mandating only one credit
as a graduation requirement, so they cannot report to legislators whether the
existing graduation requirement has improved Michigan students' competency or
not. On what basis, then, do we believe that these bureaucrats would be able to
effectively implement a law that mandates 16 credits? Most importantly, what
confidence can we have that this proposal will "change the face of public
education in Michigan," in Flanagan’s words, if we have no idea whether it has
"changed the face" of civics instruction?
Given this history, wouldn't parents be much more effective than politicians and bureaucrats in deciding what courses their children need?
Let’s keep discussing this