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Melissa Titsworth's Page
High School Diploma vs. Certificate of Completion

Introduction:
As a physical education teacher I have the opportunity to interact with all students at the high school level. This means that in any given class that I teach I will see a range of students from the smartest in their graduating class to the most struggling special ed student. In my class this background information doesn't matter because they all have a chance to be successful in physical education. It is amazing to see special education students excel in my class when they didn't think that they could. I am reminded daily of why I became a teacher when I see my special education students truly enjoy class and be proud of themselves. Most of my special education students work harder to apease their teachers than their general ed peers. Unfortunately, due to their disabilities many of them will never be able to complete the graduation requirements put out by the state. As a result of this, these students who work to THEIR full potential will not be granted a high school diploma. Instead they will receive a certificate of completion. I am looking to find the advantages and disadvantages for the school district, but more importantly the student when granting high school diplomas and certificates of completion.



This guide, put out by the MDE, was developed to assist educators, students and parents to understand when and how to use a personal curriculum modification of the Michigan Merit Curriculum (MMC). The use of a personal curriculum (PC) modification is allowed by state statute for only three reasons:
• A student wishes to modify the mathematics requirement
• A student wishes to go beyond the academic credit requirements by adding more math, science, English language arts or languages other than English credits
• A student with a disability needs to modify the credit requirements based on his or her disability


The article "Much Ado About the Personal Curriculum" written by Diane McMillan, MASSP Associate Director, portrays three major issues with Personal Curriculums and then follows up with a five step process to easily create them. McMillan is a valid source to listen when dealing with Personal Curriculums as she was the former high school redesign consultant at MDE. With this title she was directly privy to conversations about the intent of Personal Curriculums that lawmakers had desired.

Personal Curriculum Presentation - November 2008 SBE Meeting
This is a video of a Michigan State Board of Education meeting that explains the Personal Curriculum and how it pertains to the Michigan Merrit Curriculum to its own board members. This is a great explanation of how the legislation is to be read and understood. It is a long video, very dry at the beginning, but a ton of useful information.


ActPoint is a web-based application to help schools through the Personal Curriculum process. It is an easy to use automated service for schools to use to accurately pre-qualify Personal Curriculum requests specific to the Michigan Merrit Curriculum. Grand Blanc High School has chosen to use this program to acheive consistent MMC-PC decisions that are aligned with applicable law. You do need a username and password, but the main home page give a good overview of how the program works. It also announces any PC legislation and MDE Guidance changes.

This is a cite put out by the MDE with additional resources regarding Personal Curriculums. The resources are:
- Six steps to a diploma via the Personal Curriculum
- Mathmatics options and sample scenarios
- EDP Overview
- Diploma vs. Completion without a Lucrari de diploma
- School Improvement Framework
- Content Expectations Overview
The section regarding Diploma vs. Completion without a Diploma is very imformative and interesting. Students graduating without a diploma may still go to a trade/vocational school or a community college based off from their results on a standardized test such as the ACT. Without a diploma you can still enter certain branches of the US armed forces as a Tier II candidate. However, the percentage rate of Tier II enlistees is very low in all branches. There are still scholarships and financial aid available for graduates without a diploma, however they are not the same as would be with a diploma. It is refreshing to see that their are still opportunities for graduates without diplomas. Unfortunately, they come with stipulations and are not as promising.


Personal Curriculum - A Tool to Individualize Rigor and Revalance
This is a powerpoint created by the MDE. It does a good job of describing when and why a Personal Curriculum should be used. This powerpoint makes this process realistic by using specific examples of students who would and wouldn't be acceptable for a Personal Curriculum.


This is a chart that shows the Personal Curriculum Modifications for Subject Area Credit Requirments in regards to the MMC. This is a very handy chart that would assist in creating Personal Curriculums or in establishing when and where a Personal Curriculum can be made. It is very easy to read and extremely understandable!
chart

This is a cite put out by the MDE regarding Frequently Asked Questions pertaining to the Personal Curriculum. It's very user friendly as the cite is broken up into different sections or categories of questions. Section V has many questions that deal with the consequences of graduating without a diploma. It also has questions regarding districts abilities to decipher who gets a diploma. It's written in plain english so anyone can understand it, not just lawyers!


The article"Well-intentioned folly" by Michael D. Ruch speaks of a school psychologist who suggests 'high standards' may leave some students behind. The Michigan Merrite Curriculum obviously affects all Michigan students' education, however this article shows how the MMC affects students emotionally. As educators we all know that it is much harder for students with emotional issues to succeed. It will be interesting to see how the affects of not meeting the rigorous standards of the MMC will affect our students.
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Michigan Department of Education Personal Curriculum website
The MDE has a spot on their website strictly pertaining to Personal Curriculums. There is an abundance of information from helping you figure out just what a Personal Curriculum is to actually helping you with writing a Personal Curriculum. It also has all the new happenings with Personal Curriculums and tools to help you through the process of writing a Personal Curriculum.



Summary:
Wow, all I can say is this is definitely work in progress! I had an extremely hard time finding research on this subject area. The reason that there is not a whole lot of research on this is that this year's juniors will be the first students allowed to go through the Personal Curriculum process. Therefore, no one has been through it so we don't know what or where the bugs are yet. I found most of my information through the MDE. They have a whole site set up explaining the Personal Curriculum process. The MDE has done it's best to inform school personnel on the ins and outs of what they want. The problem is this is a huge change in curriculum requirements for the high school level, especially for special education, and the information available is very cumbersome and vague. Seeing as how every high school in Michigan does not offer the same classes, class names, etc. school personnel have to be crafty to make sure all students are fitting in the MME curriculum. My original research question was to see what the implications were when a student is awarded a certificate of completion vs. a diploma. I did find out that unfortunately, students who do receive a certificate of completion do not have the same options post high school. A certificate of completion does not hold the same clout as a high school diploma. Therefore, students are at a disadvantage if they did not receive a high school diploma. They can go to most trade schools, two year colleges, and get into some parts of military, but at a very low level. The state has allowed each district to decide what kind of certificate/diploma they will give to someone with a personal curriculum. Some just give high school diplomas and others give a high school diploma and/or a certificate of completion. It will be interesting to see what the state does once these students who receive certificate of completions are ready to enter the working or higher education world.
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I am fortunate enough to be working with my principal and the special education department as we start our voyage through personal curriculums. The district of Grand Blanc has decided that all students will be receiving a diploma, even special education students. One of the main reasons that Grand Blanc decided to award all diplomas is because when a student receives a certificate of completion, they are not included in the graduation rate. Grand Blanc has a goal of reaching a 0% drop out rate, therefore if we awarded certificate of completions we would never meet this goal. This means that any low level special education students must have a Personal Curriculum to meet the requirements of the state. As a special edcuation department we sat down with our lengthy list of special ed juniors to see who has completed what of the MME curriculum. Let's just say these poor kids have a lot of holes to fill in their senior year and our staff is going to have to get very creative with scheduling. We created a check list of classes that the freshmen special ed students will start taking next year.
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We looked at each class to see if they met at least 10% of the MME curriclum classes and then renamed all the special ed classes. It seemed to be a very painful process for the special ed teachers because they know it is a far stretch for some of these students to be able to understand their multiplication tables let alone Alg. II. Grand Blanc's goal is to award all students with diploma if they can master 10% of each required course in the MME curriculum. The state has given the ok for 10% mastery level for required courses. As for the students that won't be able to get through 10% of a certain area they will get a certificate of completion. However, we are aiming for zero students to do this. I'm assuming some of our staff is going to be expected to get really crafty with currriculum. Our principal is very hesitant in awarding any certificates of completion because they will count against the school as a non graduate. It will be interesting to see how other districts decide to go through this process. I am eager to see how the state thinks public education has done with these low level students after this first year. I'm sure there will be a whole laundry list of bugs to work out of the system next spring. It has been eye opening to work first hand on new legislation that so often gets forced upon public education.

Example of Grand Blanc's Personal Curriculum Checklist
PC Template SpEd 3 2010 (2).doc

Resources:
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