Faculty publication on Michigan merit curriculum now in educational policy journal

January 27, 2017

A paper by Brian Jacob, Susan Dynarski, Kenneth Frank, and Barbara Schneider titled, “Are Expectations Alone Enough? Estimating the Effect of a Mandatory College-Prep Curriculum in Michigan” was published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis on January 20, 2017. The paper was originally published as an NBER working paper in February 2016.


This article examines the impacts of the Michigan Merit Curriculum (MMC), a statewide college-preparatory curriculum that applies to the high school graduating class of 2011 and later. Our analyses suggest that the higher expectations embodied in the MMC had slight impact on student outcomes. Looking at student performance in the ACT, the only clear evidence of a change in academic performance comes in science. Our best estimates indicate that ACT science scores improved by 0.2 points (or roughly 0.04 SD) as a result of the MMC. Our estimates for high school completion are sensitive to the choice of specification, though some evidence suggests that the MMC reduced graduation for the least prepared students.