Cherry Urges Board Of Education To Push For High School Reforms

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Michigan needs tougher academic standards for high schools, Lt. Gov. John Cherry told the State Board of Education on Tuesday.

Its part of a strategy to double the number of college graduates in Michigan within the next decade, which Cherry said would help strengthen the states economy.

Theres not an issue more basic or important to Michigans future, Cherry said of education reform.

Cherry led a commission that late last year issued several recommendations to increase the number of college graduates. Some of those recommendations fall within the scope of the Michigan Department of Education and the state board, he said.

The board could push the Legislature and local school districts to adopt tougher high school graduation standards, including more math and science classes. Cherry also said he is concerned about the number of high school dropouts and a traditional mind-set that sometimes stifles cooperation between K-12 schools, community colleges and universities.

Board members of both political parties appeared receptive to the Democratic lieutenant governors presentation. The board already has begun work on some of the recommendations proposed by Cherrys commission.

Were on the same page, I think, said board president Kathleen Straus, a Democrat.

The state Department of Education put together a high school reform team in late 2003. The teams report concluded that the current high school structure is not meeting the needs of students, particularly when it comes to inspiring them to develop skills theyll need in the future.

The panel suggested creating small-scale career academies with employer partnerships to help develop a better work force.

Michigan has joined 12 other states in an effort to strengthen curriculum and graduation standards. The goal is for high school graduates to better satisfy needs of employers and colleges.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm has proposed giving schools incentive payments, starting in the 2006-07 academic year, if they encourage more students to follow a curriculum stocked with math, science and foreign languages.

About 26 percent of Michigans population between the ages of 25-34 has a bachelors degree or higher. The national average is 27.5 percent, and several states have 33 percent or higher.

States with more college graduates tend to have higher average incomes and lower unemployment rates.

Were talking about a culture change, Cherry said. We have to adjust to the notion that education needs to go beyond high school.

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