LA requires college prep, but a D will do

Eight years ago, under pressure to qualify more Latino and black students for college, Los Angeles Unified’s school board voted to make the college-prep courses required by state universities a graduation requirement.  That policy goes into effect for ninth graders this fall. Fearing massive dropouts, district officials propose to let students graduate with 25 percent fewer credits, reports the Los Angeles Times. Students could pass with a D, even though the state universities require a C or better in what’s known as A-G classes for admission.

Currently, a student must earn 230 credits to graduate. Under the proposal, that requirement would be reduced to 170 credits, the minimum set by the California Department of Education. Among the requirements to be dropped are: health/life skills, technology and electives that cover a broad range of subjects, including calculus and journalism.

. . . Students who pass all their classes typically would earn a minimum 180 credits by the end of their junior year.

District officials hope to require students to earn at least a C in college-prep courses starting with the class of 2017.

Some argue that students benefit from taking college-prep courses, even if they scrape by with a D.

“These courses are the markers of a more rigorous curriculum,” said USC education professor Guilbert Hentschke. Since most students don’t attend a four-year university, a college-prep curriculum also “should have a giant effect on success in a two-year community college,” Hentschke said.

With fewer credits required for graduation, students will be able to retake classes they’ve failed — advanced algebra is a killer — during the school day, officials say.

In 2011, nearly half of graduating seniors failed to complete the A-G classes. Many students had dropped out by then. Fifteen percent of those who started high school four years earlier were eligible for state universities.

Requiring all students to pass the A-G requirements was “magical thinking,” not leadership, editorializes the Times.

D students will not succeed in community college. They’ll end up in the Bermuda Triangle of higher education — remedial math, writing and reading — from which few emerge with a degree or even with the ability to pass a single college-level class. Sadly, most C students don’t qualify for college-level classes at community colleges or state universities. If teachers lower expectations — inevitable when they’re teaching lots of poorly prepared students — the B students are likely to end up in remedial classes too.

Oklahoma may cancel graduation requirements

Oklahoma may repeal its brand-new graduation requirements for fear of high failure rates, reports the Tulsa World.

The class of 2012 is the first group of students to face the state graduation requirements created by lawmakers in 2005 as part of Achieving Classroom Excellence legislation.

Each student is required to pass four of seven end-of-instruction exams to get a high school diploma. The exams are in Algebra I and II, English II and III, Biology I, geometry and U.S. history.

Rep. Jerry McPeak, D-Warner, predicts 80 percent of legislators will support repealing the higher standards.

Even Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa, a co-author of the original bill, wants to rethink the legislation. Schools haven’t been able to give students enough remedial help, she said.

Several states are backing off on higher graduation requirements, notes the Hechinger Report. Georgia eased its requirements last year, cutting the number of exams from four to one.

Other states are raising standards to ensure a passing score signifies college readiness.

New York has vowed to make its high-school graduation exams tougher after a study last year showed that even students who pass the math test may be placed in remedial math classes in college. Florida recently raised its cut-off scores on all standardized exams, including those in high school, and is developing additional end-of-course assessments.

Statistics showing that large numbers of high-school graduates are unprepared for college coursework have fueled the push to make tests more difficult. Right now, many of those who do earn a diploma must enroll in at least one remedial course in college.

Nearly a quarter of high school graduates who seek to enter the military fail the entrance exam, which tests subjects such as word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, arithmetic reasoning and general science, Hechinger reports.