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IES Grant

Title: The Impact of the Michigan Merit Curriculum and Michigan Promise Scholarship on Student Outcomes
Center: NCER Year: 2010
Principal Investigator: Jacob, Brian A. Awardee: University of Michigan
Program: Evaluation of State and Local Education Programs and Policies      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years Award Amount: $5,999,850
Type: Efficacy Award Number: R305E100008

Co-Principal Investigators: Susan Dynarski (University of Michigan), Barbara Schneider (Michigan State University), Kenneth Frank (Michigan State University), Joseph Martineau (Michigan Department of Education), Mary Alice Galloway (Michigan Department of Education), Thomas Howell (Michigan Office of the State Budget)

Purpose: This project will assess the implementation and impact of two recent reforms in Michigan designed to work in tandem to promote college attendance and success: (1) the Michigan Merit Curriculum the requires a more rigorous high school curriculum; and (2) the Michigan Promise Scholarship that provides funding for college to students who meet academic criteria.

Project Activities: The project will determine if the Michigan Merit curriculum: (1) altered the high school course-taking patterns of students, particularly in math and science; (2) had an impact on student achievement, high school graduation and college attendance; and (3) whether the impacts of the Merit Curriculum varied by academic subject, student, school or district characteristics. It will also determine if Michigan Promise Scholarship: (1) the take-up rate of the Promise Scholarship among eligible students; (2) the impact of the Promise Scholarship on the rate of college entry, college choice and college completion; and (3) whether the impacts of the Promise Scholarship vary by school, income, gender, race, ethnicity, prior academic achievement and course-taking.

The project will combine data from several sources to carry out the analyses including: (1) Michigan's Single Record Student Database (data on demographics, high school graduation, and schools); (2) Michigan's Educational Assessment Program; (3) Michigan's Registry of Education Personnel; (4) postsecondary enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse; and (5) a transcript study in 60 high schools in the state drawn from a sample of high schools randomly stratified on location, school size, and student demographics.

Products: This work will produce published reports regarding the impacts of the two state programs. The results will be directly provided to the Michigan Department of Education through the participation of department personnel on the project and to the research community and other education practitioners and policymakers through publications.

Setting: All public school districts (including charter schools) in the state of Michigan.

Population: All students attending Michigan public high schools in eight recent 9th grade cohorts (2002–2003 through 2009–2010).

Intervention: 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 (1) receiving a passing score 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.

Research Design and Methods: The project will use two quasi-experimental methods. The Michigan Merit Curriculum will be evaluated using a comparative interrupted time series design with comparison groups from within state (those schools that already had a similar curriculum) and between states. The Michigan Promise Scholarship will be evaluated using a regression discontinuity design (RDD) based on student scores on the Michigan Merit Exam (MME) taken in 11th grade. High school graduates who meet or exceed Michigan standards on the MME are eligible for the initial portion of the scholarship (they can receive an additional portion by maintaining a set GPA for their first two years in college).

Control Condition: 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 and the differences in course taking prior to the policy implementation will be documented.

In evaluating the Michigan Merit 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.

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

Data Analytic Strategy: Various forms of regression analyses that implement the interrupted time series and regression discontinuity approaches will be used to estimate the impact of these policies. For the Michigan Merit Scholarship, linear probability models will be used include Ordinary Least Square regressions, Logit and Probit models for the bivariate outcomes and Ordered Probits and Negative Binomial models for the categorical outcomes. These models will account for the correlation of errors within groups and over time (that occur due to the nest of the data). The Michigan Merit Scholarship will be analyzed using a standard parametric RDD (Imbens and Lemieux 2007). Should there be a discontinuous change in the probability of treatment at the cutoff (a fuzzy RDD due to student retaking the Michigan Merit Exam to get the scholarship) then an instrumental variable approach will be included.


Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Dynarski, S.M., Hemelt, S.W., and Hyman, J.M. (2015). The Missing Manual: Using National Student Clearinghouse Data to Track Postsecondary Outcomes. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 37 (1_suppl), 53S79S.

Hemelt, S.W., and Rosen, R.B. (2016). School Entry, Compulsory Schooling, and Human Capital Accumulation: Evidence From Michigan. The BE Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, 16 (4).

Hyman, J. (2017). Does Money Matter in the Long Run? Effects of School Spending on Educational Attainment. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 9 (4), 25680.

Hyman, J. (2017). ACT for all: The Effect of Mandatory College Entrance Exams on Postsecondary Attainment and Choice. Education Finance and Policy, 12 (3), 281311.

Hyman, J. (2019). Can Light-Touch College-Going Interventions Make a Difference? Evidence from a Statewide Experiment in Michigan. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

Jacob, B., Dynarski, S., Frank, K., and Schneider, B. (2017). Are Expectations Alone Enough? Estimating the Effect of a Mandatory College—Prep Curriculum in Michigan. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 39 (2): 333360.

Kim, S., Wallsworth, G., Xu, R., Schneider, B., Frank, K., Jacob, B., and Dynarski, S. (2019). The Impact of the Michigan Merit Curriculum on High School Math Course-Taking. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 41 (2), 164-188.

Michelmore, K., and Dynarski, S. (2017). The Gap Within the Gap: Using Longitudinal Data to Understand Income Differences in Educational Outcomes. AERA Open, 3 (1).

Minor, E. C. (2016). Racial Differences in Mathematics Test Scores for Advanced Mathematics Students. The High School Journal, 99 (3), 193-210.

Minor, E.C. (2015). Classroom Composition and Racial Differences in Opportunities to Learn. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), 20 (3), 238-262.

Working paper

Dynarski, S., Libassi, C.J., Michelmore, K., and Owen, S. (2018). Closing the Gap: The Effect of a Targeted, Tuition-Free Promise on College Choices of High-Achieving, Low-Income Students (No. w25349). National Bureau of Economic Research.

Garlick, R. and Hyman, J. (2016). Data vs. Methods: Quasi-Experimental Evaluation of Alternative Sample Selection Corrections for Missing College Entrance Exam Score Data. Economic Research Initiatives at Duke (ERID) Working Paper No. 221. Available at SSRN: or

Hyman, J. (2018). Nudges, College Enrollment, and College Persistence: Evidence from a Statewide Experiment in Michigan. Available at SSRN: or

Kim, S. (2018). Return to Algebra II: The Effect of Mandatory Math Coursework on Postsecondary Attainment. Available at SSRN: or