Our Research

Will raising course-taking standards help student performance and college & career readiness? MCER is currently gathering data from 150 Michigan high schools to understand how high course-taking standards are impacting student college going in the state of Michigan. Funded by the US Department of Education, this groundbreaking research is one of the first to look at the relationship between student course-taking and college going using Michigan historical data through today.

If you are interested in learning more about this study and/or would like to participate please contact Karin Schneider at (877) 615-3149.

Michigan Merit Curriculum gives small boost to best students, with negative or no impact on lower achievers

Press Release (Microsoft Word)

Technical Appendix - Sample (Adobe PDF)

Mandating Merit: Assessing the Implementation of the Michigan Merit Curriculum (Adobe PDF)

Education legislation


The Michigan Context - High School Attainment and College Enrollment Across the State


In order to understand the educational landscape in which the Michigan Merit Curriculum (MMC) was enacted, we examine the attainment trajectory of high school students in Michigan. These findings will provide a baseline against which we can interpret any impacts of the MMC. We use state administrative data describing students who began high school in the academic years 2004-2005 through 2007-2008.

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Impacts of the Michigan Merit Curriculum on Student Outcomes - Preliminary Findings from the First Cohort


Based on the first cohort of students exposed to the requirements of the MMC for their entire high school career, we find that the MMC led to small increases in the academic performance of already high-achieving students, with positive effects in science and reading, as well as in ACT math. We find little or negative impacts on the academic performance of low-achieving students, with the largest negative effects appearing in non-MMC subjects (e.g., ACT writing).

The MMC appears to have caused some students to extend their stay in high school beyond the traditional four years, perhaps in an effort to meet the more rigorous curricular requirements. The MMC also slightly increased the five-year dropout rate. As more ninth-graders move through high school, we will be better able to estimate the MMC's impact on the college-going behavior of recent Michigan graduates.

Going forward, we plan to closely examine patterns of student-level course-taking to understand if and how the effects of the MMC vary by district. We will also compare the experiences of Michigan students under the MMC to students in other states with similar reform efforts.

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The Michigan Merit Curriculum and Teacher Compositional Change


In the spring of 2006 the state of Michigan enacted the Michigan Merit Curriculum (MMC) with the intent to increase the rigor of student course-taking, improve student performance, and increase college matriculation rates. This policy brief focuses on corresponding changes in the composition of teachers in Michigan high schools from the time period prior to the introduction of the MMC to after implementation. Because schools were required to offer more rigorous coursework for students, they may have also needed to hire more teachers to teach the new courses or otherwise respond to the demands of the reform. Our goal is to understand how schools have managed the changing human resources requirements associated with the MMC as a way to contextualize other findings about changes in student course-taking, academic performance, and variation in district outcomes.

To answer these questions, we use state administrative data from the Registry of Educational Personnel (REP) about teacher hiring and personnel assignments from 2004 to 2011. Following convention in the literature, we report student-teacher ratios in this brief. However, it is important to note that while these ratios represent statewide access to different kinds of teachers, they do not indicate actual class sizes.

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More to come.