LAUSD Board Passes Plan to Help Seniors Graduate

Thomas Himes, LA Daily News, June 10, 2015

The Los Angeles Unified school board approved a plan Tuesday that it hopes will help high school students pass the college prep classes that will be required to receive diplomas next year.

A majority of incoming seniors–51 percent–are behind on the courses, jeopardizing their diplomas and prompting Superintendent Ramon Cortines to draft an “intervention plan” that allocates part of $15 million to catching them up.

While board member Tamar Galatzan joined the unanimous vote, she did so with “trepidation,” because she said she fears students will suffer in a plan that is still lacking.

A decade ago, the school board decided that diplomas for the class of 2016 and beyond would be contingent on students completing 15 courses required for admittance to California’s major university systems.

“Here we’re sitting in 2015 and we still don’t have an implementation plan,” Galatzan said. “I am worried we are setting students up for failure, because this district hasn’t gotten its act together and said how we are going to support students.”

The district has lost ground in the years since it originally passed the requirement. In 2005, 47.6 percent of Los Angeles Unified’s graduating class had the courses needed to apply for those colleges with the required grade of C or better, according to 2005 state records that track students who finish high school four years after starting.

Fast forward nine years to the most recent statistics reported by the California Department of Education and the rate fell by more than a percentage point, according to 2014 state records.

A majority of LAUSD’s graduating class in 2014, about 54 percent, or 20,514 students, failed to meet the requirements.

At 53 campuses that serve 2,125 students, not a single student in 2014 met the requirement. Most of those campuses were either continuation schools–commonly attended by troubled students–or dedicated to special education.

For students entering their junior year, 51 percent, or 18,788 students, have already fallen behind.

The board’s vote Tuesday saved some of those students by allowing D grades to count. The original 2005 resolution proposed requiring students in the class of 2017 and beyond to pass the college prep courses with grades of C or better.

California’s two major college systems, California State University and the University of California, both require C grades in the courses to be eligible for admission.

“I’m not saying ‘get a D,’ but for those students who don’t have the capacity to get there, they need to have the opportunity to have a high school diploma,” board member George McKenna said.

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More than 58 percent of students who did not meet requirements in the 2014 class were Latino, according to state records.

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“The path to 100 percent completion of A-G courses is not an easy one, but it is not impossible,” Cortines wrote in a letter to board members Friday regarding the college prep classes.

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