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Bailey supports rigor in high school curriculum

Feb. 23, 2006

KALAMAZOO--During testimony before a state Senate Education Committee hearing in Kalamazoo this week, Western Michigan University President Judith I. Bailey came down squarely in support of tough new high school graduation requirements and pointed to the work of WMU faculty members who have been working to improve high school courses and upgrade the skills of teachers.

"I consider the changes you have proposed to Michigan's high school curriculum absolutely critical to the future of our state and the well being of our citizens," Bailey said in her testimony. "...We need more rigor and higher expectations for all of our students so they can make the most of their potential and our state's future."

Michigan is considering a new high school core curriculum that includes four years each of mathematics and English, three years of science and social studies and two years of a foreign language. Bailey notes the new requirements proposed are nearly identical to a core curriculum adopted more than a decade ago by the Presidents Council of State Universities, Michigan. Students headed for Michigan universities are advised early in their high school careers to the necessity of using that core curriculum to prepare for college.

One criticism of the new curriculum is that school districts lack the teaching staff to implement changes, especially in the areas of math and science. Bailey pointed to extensive efforts that have been under way at WMU for years and are aimed at both training new teachers and helping inservice teachers enhance their skills in those areas. One longtime WMU initiative referenced by Bailey, the Core Plus Mathematics Project, has focused on developing an "exemplary" new four-year high school math curriculum designed for all students as well as providing training for the teachers who implement it.

A problem area for the proposed high school requirements, Bailey told the committee, centers on the lack of adjustments available to fit the needs of academically talented students, who may test out of required courses or master the skills required before they even attend high school. WMU is the site of a program for 150 academically talented students from about 50 Michigan school districts. Bailey urged the committee to consider building adjustments into the curriculum to address those students' needs.

To read Bailey's complete testimony, go to www.wmich.edu/president.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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