Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Patricia L. Reeves

Second Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein-Palmer

Third Advisor

Dr. Michael Shibler


education, student involvement, reform, curriculum


The purpose of this qualitative case study was to examine how students experience and respond to Michigan’s increased graduation requirements. The study was conducted in a large, suburban high school that instituted a change to a trimester system in response to the state mandate. A criterion-based sample of 16 students, both college bound and non-college bound, participated in one-on-one interviews regarding their knowledge about, their understanding of, and their experience with the new Michigan Merit Curriculum, and how this increase impacted the student participants’ high school academic choices and/or postsecondary plans. Additionally, this study engaged focus groups of one or more parents of the participating students and a cross-section of teaching, counseling, and administrative staff from the case study site.

An inductive analysis produced findings for each participant group and was cross-analyzed among groups. Four major themes emerged from the study: (1) students experienced limited or nonexistent involvement in high school graduation requirement curriculum reform; (2) parents, students, and staff expressed concerns that completion of rigorous high school graduation requirements may not be attainable for all students; (3) the high school that served as the site for this study used a creative approach to provide flexibility for meeting the new graduation requirements; and, overall, (4) students were adjusting and doing quite well with the new, more rigorous set of requirements. The experiences of students, as described by their parents, and the high school staff themselves, provided insights about how this level of curriculum reform might continue to evolve, and what role students might play in that evolution.

Overall, this study supports previous literature on reform efforts in schools that reflect a lack of involvement by students at the level of either state policy development or local district response and planning. Students, parents, and staff had some level of agreement that students should play some role in major school reform and change, but both parents and staff were cautious about giving actively enrolled students a significant voice.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access