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LA Unified to consider dropping ‘C’ requirement for graduation

Vanessa Romo | June 4, 2015

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graduationD is for diploma!

In a major reversal, LA Unified school board members are proposing to change graduation requirements that compel students to pass college prep courses with a “C” or better, making a “D” an acceptable grade to earn their high school diplomas.

If passed, the resolution by board members Monica Garcia, Steve Zimmer and George McKenna would likely prevent an imminent graduation rate crisis.

Under the district’s current A-G policy, which goes into full effect with the Class of 2017, the only way for students to successfully complete high school is to also be eligible for enrollment in California’s public universities. UCs and Cal State schools alike set a minimum “C” bar for 15 college-prep courses. But data made public by the district in March revealed that only 37 percent of the first cohort will meet the rigorous standards.

“This is not a retreat from the purpose of A-G nor should it be read as a capitulation to those who said [the tougher standards] are setting up these kids for failure,” Zimmer told LA School Report.

“It is just a recognition that there is an urgency to move the access and equity agenda forward: to give all kids equal access to a rigorous college prep education,” he said, adding, “The intention was never to punish kids if we did not make the resources available.” 

Despite ten years of implementation and studies in 2010 and 2012 tracking districtwide progress, records show many schools often in the poorest pockets of LAUSD still do not offer core college prep courses.

The updated resolution by Zimmer and his colleagues calls for an immediate “equity audit” of A-G courses offered to be completed by October. The report “must surface and identify gaps in resources, interventions and access to and successful completion of A-G courses in all high schools.”

Further, the resolution seeks to create an intervention plan for schools failing to provide adequate access and compels the district to devise an Individual Graduation Plan for all seniors who are struggling to meet the new standards.

“It is clear that we have not resourced A-G properly,” Zimmer said. “That is why we need to a 360 degree report by the best experts in the filed to tell us where we need to make the kind of investments that are necessary.”

Only after allocating the right amount of resources to struggling students, he added, can the district reconsider reverting to a “C” or better threshold for graduation.

In the interim, “we can’t let the children who have been failed by those responsible to carry the burden,” Zimmer said.

The addition of board member McKenna’s name to the measure is evidence of a significant compromise on the issue. McKenna strongly opposed the resolution at the last board meeting and was the driving force behind postponing a vote at the time.

McKenna’s strongest objection to the A-G policy has been the problem it poses for students who may not be interested in attending college but depend on a high school diploma.

“I am opposed to the requirement of a ‘C’ grade to get a diploma,” he said at the May meeting. “A ‘D’ is a passing grade no matter what UC or Cal State [schools] say.”

Blocking those students from graduating could destroy their entire futures, he argued.

“Not everybody needs to go to college but everybody needs a high school diploma,” he said.

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