Superintendents react to Bumstead bill
A bill currently in the Michigan House of Representatives plans to eliminate certain graduation requirements, including classes such as Algebra II, health and physical education.
The bill introduced in October 2019 by Sen. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo, who said the current requirements “sometimes stifle student creativity and exploration and do not always allow students to be prepared for life after high school if those plans do not include college.”
While local school superintendents said they are wary of eliminating classes that may be important to a student's growth, they do support giving more freedom to districts.
“I'd love the opportunity to create our own graduation requirements,” Hastings Area Schools Superintendent Dan Remenap said. “We need flexibility as a district.”
“The more local control schools can have, the better,” Delton Kellogg Superintendent Kyle Corlett said.
If the state legislature passes the Bumstead bill and eliminates graduation requirements for certain classes, individual districts may still choose to require students to take those classes. Districts could have flexibility to set different schedules for students with different post-high school plans.
“All students are not the same, and local districts should have opportunities to customize graduation opportunities for the unique needs of their students,” Maple Valley Superintendent Katherine Bertolini said. “I think the key to proper revision of state graduation requirements is a careful alignment of course options to students' interests in future training and career options. It is possible to create high-interest, high-rigor courses for all students that are not necessarily university preparation options.”
Bertolini pointed to math as an area where more flexibility would allow schools to better tailor classes to student needs.
Corlett echoed Bertolini's point, specifically on Algebra II.
“It would benefit students who are pursuing a career in the skilled trades who don't need to take that class for their future career,” Corlett said.
Only six other states outside of Michigan require Algebra II for graduation.
“I do believe in finding some middle ground,” Remenap said. “Not every kid is going to college.”
But others areas, such as health and physical education, are important to every student's growth, the superintendents said.
“I think we need to balance ensuring we are not doing students a disservice by allowing them to graduate without classes they need, while also doing our best to meet students' needs,” Corlett said. “I would not recommend eliminating health as a requirement. We offer health class in middle school when we think students really need to learn that material.”
“I would not support the abandonment of health or physical education in programming because we need to have healthy students across all areas of academic study,” Bertolini said. “That is a universal need, but I support having flexibility in what the local districts decide are viable options for their community.”