L.A. school board to vote on new graduation requirements
The Los Angeles Board of Education is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a plan that would establish new graduation requirements in the nation's second-largest school system. Under the proposal, students in the Class of 2016—next year’s ninth-graders—would be required to pass college preparation courses needed to apply to a four-year public state college. At the same time, the number of overall course units required for high school graduation would be reduced by 25%.
The goal is to provide more college and career opportunities for students by increasing academic rigor, said L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy. He said he wants all students taking college preparation classes, and he’s willing to reduce other academic work to help students pass these more important courses.
Some critics have said the plan demands too much of students and could increase the dropout rate. Others wanted Deasy to reach higher. Deasy’s plan allows students to get a D in the college prep classes. To apply to a four-year state college, however, students must earn a C or better in those classes.
The state Department of Education sets minimum graduation requirements. It is left up to individual school districts to establish additional standards. Few districts require students to pass the full set of college prep classes that are required for admission to a state university.
The most difficult component of the proposed college prep curriculum may be two years of math beyond Algebra 1. Currently, the state and L.A. Unified require passing only Algebra 1. The college prep proposal also requires two years of foreign language, which isn't currently mandated by L.A. Unified.
Many supporters of the college prep initiative wanted students to earn a C or better when the school board originally approved the policy in 2005. Deasy, who was not here at the time, also believed that the board required a C or better as he outlined in a March 2011 memo to staff. In a recent interview, however, Deasy said he now views the board decision of 2005 as requiring only a D in college prep classes.
The overall number of courses required to graduate needs to be reduced, said Jaime Aquino, deputy superintendent of instruction, because he fears that too many students wouldn't be able to pass the college prep courses. And the district could face a massive dropout problem, he said. Under the proposal before the board Tuesday, students would no longer be required to enroll in as many electives.
-- Howard Blume
Photo: Erik Segura, 17, a senior at Los Angeles Senior High School, talks last month about the proposal to change graudation requirements. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times