March 26 • 04:48 PM

Imlay super brings parents into his quest for doctorate

Dr. Gary Richards incorporates questionnaire into dissertation

July 08, 2009
IMLAY CITY — There's a new doctor in the house at Imlay City Schools. Superintendent Gary Richards presented his dissertation and received his doctorate last month from Oakland University.

Richards has been at the helm of the school district since October 2006.

His dissertation was entitled 'Attitude of Parents from Rural School Districts Toward a Constrained Curriculum for Students Attending Michigan Public High Schools in the 21st Century.' Essentially, Richards sought parents' opinions on what their children should be taught in high school.

Gary Richards
Surveying parents from four area school districts, Richards said as Imlay City's former high school principal, he knows how valuable it is to listen to all parties involved.

"I've found that it's important to listen to parents regarding developing curriculum ... we're here because of parents and their students," Richards said.

"Unfor-tunately, we've lost a lot of local control."

Curriculum matters are now handled by the state but Richards is hopeful his research will help legislators implement parents' wishes. Richards plans to hand over a copy to local State House Representative Kevin Daley, who recently hosted an educational forum at the Lapeer County Ed-Tech Center.

He said there has been little research done that focuses on rural schools and communities—another factor that guided his project.

His questions specifically probed people's attitude toward a constrained curriculum, or college prep course, and the state's Michigan Merit Curriculum, the state's newest graduation requirements which became effective in 2006.

The results showed that parents favored a common core curriculum that mirrors most of the Michigan Merit Curriculum but did not favor a more constrained program.

"Parents wanted more emphasis placed on the basics (i.e., reading, writing, and mathematics), but they did not want public high schools to emphasize a few subjects and focus on mastery or assign students a class schedule with limited student choices and options," Richards said in his presentation.

One of the most interesting and surprising results Richards said was that the majority of respondents agreed that high schools should teach values, life skills and good work and health habits—often controversial topics.

There was also strong support for athletics and extra curricular activities.

"They want a well-rounded and balanced education for their children," Richards said.

Richards defined the rural parents attitudes as being 'learner-centered' rather than 'subject-centered.'

In his presentation, Richards notes that his findings correlate with recent moves by state legislators to intoduce a bill that would allow students to count career technical education courses toward high school graduation, allowing students "to choose an alternative path to graduation beyond the current Michigan Merit Curriculum."

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