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Snyder OKs changes to high school graduation rules

By The Associated Press | Posted - Jun. 25, 2014 at 4:31 p.m.

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder signed changes in Michigan's high school graduation rules Wednesday that will allow students to meet some math and foreign language requirements through materials woven into certain technical and arts classes.

One provision gives students the flexibility to meet the algebra II credit by taking welding or another career tech class with the mathematics content embedded in it.

"We want to make sure students have options for career-oriented courses that include material from rigorous subjects and that maintain high educational standards," Snyder said in a statement. "Career-technical classes play an important role in developing talent and helping open opportunities for students for jobs of today and tomorrow."

Michigan also currently requires students to complete two years of a foreign language. But under the provision signed by Snyder, students for the next six years will be able to fulfill half the requirement in a career tech or art class.

Plus, there will be flexibility for students who need one year of health and physical education: They can take a half-credit of health and count extracurricular activities as a half-credit in gym.

"Some of the changes in the bills are things that already were allowed through guidance we provided to local school districts, and were being done by many districts already," state Education Department spokesman Martin Ackley told The Associated Press in an email. He said changes included embedding the higher-level math content into vocational and technical classes and allowing for foreign language credits before ninth grade.

"These bills put those things into state law, which we feel is fine," Ackley said. "We certainly support the greater focus on the importance of career and technical programs for students across Michigan, and the need to teach higher-level math and science content in those programs."

Some education groups had criticized the bills earlier this year, saying that the provisions would water down Michigan's strict high school graduation requirements.

"As principals, we've been advocates from the start to maintain high standards," Wendy Zdeb-Roper, executive director of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, told earlier this month. "Every principal of a comprehensive high school has (career and technical) programs under their roof. We're able to make it work for students to complete the Michigan Merit Curriculum and get them in those ... programs."

But House Education Committee chair Lisa Posthumus Lyons said the measures boost Michigan's career education programs.

"This legislation is about training a 21st-century workforce," Lyons, R-Alto, said. "Michigan students are diverse in interest and personality and this legislation gives these students the best possible options to pursue the type of education best suited for them."

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