What do Michigan’s new High School Content Expectations mean to you?

Will the companies and businesses throughout northern Michigan be prepared for a new level of employee? The State of Michigan and the Department of Education recently enacted the new High School Content Expectations (HSCE) for graduation from high school in Michigan. These new standards, which take effect for the class of 2011 (students who have just finished their freshmen year) are both rigorous and relevant.

The expectations in each content area will provide employers with a potential workforce that has a higher level of education than any previous generation.

It is, therefore, important that the business community become aware of not only what these new standards look like, but also consider how to best prepare for a highly-educated pool of employees.

Michigan's current unemployment rate is the highest it has been since 1992. However, this is not because there are no jobs available; there are over 80,000 unfilled jobs at this time. The difficulty arises in matching the unemployed with the jobs available. Unfortunately, the skills sets do not match up.

The unemployed were not required to master skills needed in today's workforce. These are the same higher-level skills that align with the new High School Content Expectations.

All high school students, from the class of 2011 forward, must now participate in an online course or learning experience, according to the new standards. Students must also complete four years of math, up to and including Algebra 2 and lab-based science classes that include biology and chemistry or physics. In addition, effective for the class of 2016, all students will need two credits in a world language.

Although many high schools have had similar graduation requirements within their own local districts, prior to this time the only requirement from the state was the .5 credit in Civics/Government. These standards greatly change the number of credits now required. More importantly, however, are the individual High School Content Expectations for each course that will drive the level of learning and understanding expected from students who graduate from a Michigan high school.

Schools throughout Michigan are taking on a "new look" as they begin to offer students increasing numbers of virtual learning opportunities. The State of Michigan now requires mastery of content. A student is given credit for a course by demonstrating competency through end-of-course assessments, not by being in a classroom and acquiring seat time toward the issuing of a credit.

Online all the time

A high school may now be granted a "Seat Time Waiver" that allows a student to take up to a full load of classes in an online environment. The waiver allows for alternative delivery of course content so that students have additional options to achieving mastery of the HSCE. Access to learning now becomes available 24/7/365. Online learning options also allow a student to have an educational plan that is individualized and self-paced. These choices often re-engage disenfranchised learners who otherwise would not complete a high school education. Students who are seeking additional challenges or personalized timelines also enroll in virtual courses that address their goals and needs.

Many schools are developing hybrid courses which take the best of the traditional online environment and blend it with the benefits provided through virtual delivery. These classes are becoming increasingly more popular in schools as they create flexibility for teachers and students alike. Research indicates that student success in hybrid courses meets and often exceeds that of the face-to-face or online classes. High schools developing their own online and/or hybrid course options are experiencing increasing student enrollments and graduation rates.

Becoming informed employers is critical in the preparation of students who have met the HSCE. The student who exits a Michigan high school will be a very different student from those exiting high school previously. Consideration must be given to the knowledge and technological foundation these students will have as businesses plan their future strategies and growth. (For a look at the individual HSCE, please go to: www.mi.gov/hsce.)

Marsha M. Myles is president and CEO of EdTech Specialists, LLC. For questions on the new standards, call 231-313-0621 or email myles@EdTechSpecialists.com.