Merit Curriculum affecting graduation rates

Stricter graduation requirements established under the Michigan Merit Curriculum have led to fewer students graduating, according to a study by the Michigan Consortium for Educational Research. The Consortium is a partnership between the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and the state of Michigan.

The new standards were adopted in 2006 so the study focused on ninth grade students entering high school in 2007. Four years later in 2011, the number of students graduating fell 2 percent from 72 percent to 70 percent.

With the Michigan Merit Curriculum, students had to take Algebra I, geometry, Algebra 2, Biology 1, chemistry or physics, four years of English, and two years of a foreign language. The new requirements were designed to better prepare Michigan students for post-secondary success. By mandating such a great portion of the curriculum, there's more standardization of what's being taught on the high school level.

The study also showed that the number of high school teachers fell between 2004 and 2011 because districts focused on hiring teachers who could teach the more rigorous curriculum.

The achievement gap between low-income students and others is obvious in the study when it comes to graduation rates. Low-income students are less likely to graduate within four years.

Whether or not the new curriculum has an effect on college attendance and success--a goal of the new requirements--is yet to be determined.