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The Impact of the Michigan Merit Curriculum and Promise Scholarship

Primary Investigator(s): Susan Dynarski, Brian Jacob

Funding Agency: Institute of Education Sciences

Amount: $5,900,000

Period: 3/1/2010 - 12/31/2014

Researchers in this project will assess the implementation and impact of two reforms in Michigan that were designed to work in tandem to promote college attendance and workplace success.

Starting with the Class of 2011, the Michigan Merit Curriculum requires all high school students to pass a set of 16 rigorous academic courses, including Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Biology, and Chemistry or Physics. The state developed a new set of content standards, end-of-course exams and a new statewide high school exam to ensure a high level of rigor in the required classes. Starting with the Class of 2007, the Michigan Promise Scholarship provides students who meet certain academic standards with up to $4,000 for college. Students may qualify for the aid by either (1) receiving a passing grade in all subjects on the Michigan Merit Exam or (2) completing two years of postsecondary education at an approved institution with a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5.

The five cohorts of students attending Michigan high schools immediately prior to the implementation of the Michigan Merit Curriculum will serve as the control group (the treatment group will consist of three post-policy cohorts). Prior to the implementation of the policy, cohorts experienced a diversity of district-level requirements and school norms. The researchers plan to document the differences in course taking prior to the policy implementation. They will also compare changes in student outcomes across cohorts in places where students were taking more versus less rigorous courses prior to the policy. In evaluating the Michigan Promise Scholarship, the comparison group includes students who scored just below the passing cutoff on the Michigan Merit Exam. Students just below the cutoff were not eligible for immediate aid, but instead had to successfully complete two years of postsecondary schooling to receive any funding.

Measures and Key Outcomes: Student course-taking (as measured by transcript data), student achievement in 11th grade and high school graduation (as measured by statewide administrative data), and college enrollment (as measured by data from the National Student Clearinghouse).