Reminder: World Language Requirements Change for Class of 2022

Bob Kefgen's picture

Scheduling season is here and—as many Principals are doubtless aware—the Michigan Merit Curriculum (MMC) world language requirements change again for this year's eighth grade class. In 2014, the Legislature added language that allowed students graduating in 2016-2021 to substitute CTE or an additional credit of visual, performing, or applied arts (VPAA) for one of the two required credits in world language. This option goes away for the class of 2022, the cohort of students currently in eighth grade.

Below, we've reviewed the law, the relevant MDE guidance, and pending legislation to help Principals understand what options they have and what changes may be on the horizon.

The Law and Your Options

Public Acts 208 and 293 of 2014 amended the MMC law to create a number of options with regard to world language. Principals can see MCL 380.1278a(2) for the full statutory language, but MDE's FAQ on the Michigan Merit Curriculum (which is the relevant guidance document) provides a easy-to-understand breakdown of how this language translates into practice:

Students can meet the world language requirement in the following ways:

  • By completing the equivalent of 2 credits in a language other than English during Grades K-12.*
  • Through learning beyond the K-12 classroom: formal study abroad, study abroad programs, college coursework, home or heritage languages, online courses, or other life experiences as determined by the district.
  • Students who are graduating from high school in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, or 2021, only may partially or fully fulfill 1 credit of the World Language requirement by completing a Department approved formal CTE program or by completing Visual, Performing, or Applied Arts instruction that is in addition to the Visual, Performing, and Applied Arts requirement.

* MASSP NOTE: the credit does not have to be high school equivalent, but rather "grade-appropriate."

It is worth noting that (with one exception) students may NOT use a personal curriculum to modify the world language requirement. The one exception is students with IEP that necessitates a personal curriculum specific to world language given the impact of their disability.

Finally, as is always the case with the Michigan Merit Curriculum, Principals should note that the requirements and options in the law form a floor, not a ceiling on graduation requirements. Local districts continue to have the option to establish local graduation requirements above and beyond those outlined in MCL 380.1278a and 1278b.

The Legislative Picture

Five different bills have been introduced so far this session dealing with the world language requirement, but all those bills fall into one of two categories:

  • SB 175 and HB 4356 (the bills are identical, just in different chambers), would eliminate the sunset currently in law, effectively making the 1 credit substitution a permanent option.
  • HB 4114 and HB 4315-16 (again, identical bills in different stages of the legislative process) would replace the 2 credits of world language and 1 credit of VPAA with a 3 credit elective block (called the 21st Century Skills requirement) that students could fulfill with any combination of world language, VPAA, CTE, or computer science.

HB 4315-16 have already passed the House and, like SB 175, are awaiting action in the Senate Education Committee. The Senate has established a subcommittee to review the Michigan Merit Curriculum and make recommendations for any changes. It seems likely that the recommendations of that subcommittee will determine what path forward the legislature is likely to take.

What is unclear, though perhaps most relevant at this point, is the timeline for action. With many schools already beginning the scheduling process for 2018-19, any changes need to come sooner than later in order to avoid disruptions for schools and students.