Impacts of the Michigan Merit Curriculum on Student Outcomes - Preliminary Findings from the First Cohort

October 2012
Susan Dynarski, Brian Jacob, Kenneth Frank, Barbara Schneider

In 2006 the state of Michigan adopted a comprehensive set of high school graduation requirements known as the Michigan Merit Curriculum (MMC). These requirements were designed to increase the rigor of high school course taking in Michigan and better prepare Michigan students for postsecondary success. The MMC is more specific and academically challenging in its required coursework than the previous state requirements, as well as those of most other states. The first students covered by the MMC started ninth grade in the fall of 2007 and would have been scheduled for an on-time graduation in spring 2011.

The MMC emphasizes academic preparation in mathematics and science. Students are required to take Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2, as well as Biology 1 and either Chemistry or Physics. Students must also take four years of English Language Arts and complete two years of a foreign language.1 These courses are in contrast to requirements prior to the MMC, when only about a third of districts required four years of math and three years of science.2 By mandating well over 50 percent of the courses that students must take, the MMC brings a greater level of standardization to the high school academic experience across Michigan. The policy does, however, allow flexibility in elective choices and allows struggling students to meet the MMC requirements through a “personal curriculum” option, available on a very limited basis.