July 02, 2014 - Two new bills (HB 4465 and HB 4466) passed by Governor Rick Snyder's desk last week that revise high school graduation requirements as they relate to math, foreign language, health and physical education, the arts and giving students more options and flexibility.
Instead of having to sit through an algebra II math class, under the new legislation students could fulfill the math requirements by taking certain Career-Tech and Vocational Education classes. This is the biggest change that will affect Oxford Schools, according to Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum James Schwarz.
"That will require us to take a look at our current vocational curriculum and we'll have folks looking at what makes the most sense in terms of interspersing those standards and benchmarks across that continuum," he said. "That is an exercise that certainly we'll be undertaking as we get into the school year."
Schwarz said it's a direction that they will move forward in. "It gives (students) another avenue to pursue that's in line with their talents, their skills and their interests," he said. "We certainly want to be able to capitalize on those types of opportunities."
The state currently requires students to complete at least two-years of a foreign language in high school, but under the passed legislation those requirements could be met in grades K-8.
However, that change won't have any bearing on Oxford, as their Fifth Core Language Curriculum already mandates students take a foreign language from K-10.
"That's also a requirement within International Baccalaureate as well to have a language, other than English," he added. "To continue in being authorized for IB, we will continue with having a mandated language."
Once students have completed the MYP (Middle Years Program) of IB, which ends after 10 grade, then students have a choice to continue with language or not.
However, if a new student were to move in, who didn't grow up in Oxford schools, Schwarz noted that they would be required to take the two years in high school.
Instead of students being required to take one credit in health and physical education, the new legislation will allow students to complete a half credit in health and a half credit to be awarded in other extracurricular activities involving physical activity, such as sports. However, Schwarz, at this time doesn't see Oxford offering that option, depending on how the actual legislation is written.
"If it says 'may' in the actual bill then the district has a choice if it says 'must', then we don't have choice, so if it's law that we have to, then obviously we're going to," he said. "If there is a choice in the district then it comes up for debate."
While he knows other schools have allowed students who participate in athletics or marching band to fulfill that gym credit, Schwarz believes the physical education curriculum goes beyond just sports.
"The standards that are involved in the physical education curriculum aren't necessarily accomplished by a certain sport you may play in or by marching in the band," he added. "There are certain subsets of skills that are in those (classes) that we feel are important for every student to have experienced."
"I don't think that philosophy in the district is going to change in light of the legislation, but I'm sure that debate will come up again in the district and we'll again be in that conversation."
Current requirements include schools to offer at least one credit in visual, performing, or applied arts, the new bill "strongly encourages" the offering of such courses.
"We've pretty much taken care of that," noted Schwarz.
Currently, Oxford offers instrumental in band, orchestra and Suzuki Strings, vocal arts with choir, visual art classes and performing arts, which include theater and dance. Newly added for the upcoming school year will be Chamber Orchestra and Piano I and II.
"We're continuing to add to the mix of opportunities for kids to experience and excel in a variety of those art areas. For us that's a very important aspect of being a well-rounded individual," Schwarz said. "You're not just experiencing academics, but you're experiencing athletics as well (and) fine arts. We try to offer as much as we can in each of those three areas, to help improve that sense of well-roundedness."
The new legislation is set to go into effect beginning in April 2015. For more information checkout legislature.mi.gov.
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.