College-prep reqs can backfire

Requiring all students to pass college-prep courses risks raising the drop-out rate, concludes a Public Policy Institute of California report.

San Jose, Oakland, San Francisco and San Diego have raised their graduation requirements:  Unless they sign an opt-out form, all students must pass all the courses required for admission to state universities, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

Without strong supports, weaker students may give on earning a diploma, warns the PPIC report, which analyzed San Diego’s transition to the new requirements.

“San Diego students will need to dramatically change the courses they take,” said report co-author Julian Betts, who is also a UC San Diego professor.  “Clear communication with students, parents, and teachers about the new requirements is critical — and that communication needs to begin in middle school, if not earlier.”

The study recognizes that students may have a harder time graduating with the more rigorous standards, unless schools undertake major interventions to ensure they can succeed.

Requiring college prep may discourage students from taking career tech ed courses, PPIC warned.

In addition, districts “will need to guard against two unwanted side effects: the watering down of a–g course content and possible grade inflation that allows students to graduate even though they are not mastering the content of a–g courses.”

When San Jose Unified required college-prep for all, teachers were under great pressure to give students a D- in chemistry, advanced algebra, etc. so they could earn a diploma.

About Joanne


  1. Florida resident says:

    Dear Ms. Jacobs:
    Having read your remarkable book “Our School” in full,
    I have quite a compassion towards the teachers
    in San Jose area.
    Your F.r.

  2. HS-grad requirements shouldn’t be the same as “college readiness”, at least outside of Lake Woebegon, where all kids are above average. (and there are schools like that, where all kids should be college ready, with lots of real AP classes and the top scores to match) In most schools in this country, it’s not an achievable goal, in any meaningful definition of the term “college ready.” There are many ways for kids to succeed without taking the college route and those ways should be facilitated, not disparaged as unworthy.

    • I agree…’college ready’ is not synonymous with ‘able to contribute to society’ or ‘able to be self-supporting’, which might actually be attainable for most students.

      • Stacy in NJ says:

        Rather than college ready, how about literate, numerate, and responsible? I’m convinced an individual who has basic skills in place AND is capable of a certain degree of self-control can lead a happy and successful life whether or not they attend college.

        • Roger Sweeny says:

          Sacrilege! A college degree makes you a better person. College graduates have better moral views, better political views, and better taste. We should have as many of them as possible.

          Thus, it is right and proper that people without college degrees be stigmatized as failures.