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LAUSD board to consider graduation rate boosting measures

Vanessa Romo | June 8, 2015

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school boardSchool may be out for students and teachers but LA Unified School board members still have a lot of work ahead of them at tomorrow’s board meeting with several proposals intended to boost (or at least maintain) districtwide graduation rates.

At the top of the list is a resolution to ease rigorous graduation requirements and calls for another study — this would be the third in ten years — of how well the district has implemented the controversial A-G policy. Answer: Not very well.

Beginning with the Class of 2017 students must pass 15 college prep courses with a grade of “C” or better in order to receive their diplomas. But new data from the district shows that only 37 percent of students are on track to graduate meeting those standards.

The new plan, sponsored by board members Monica Garcia, Steve Zimmer, and George McKenna, would make a “D” an acceptable grade and essentially thwart an imminent graduation rate crisis. It would also trigger a six month study to catalogue schools that have successfully implemented the policy as well as those that haven’t.

Students at schools that are falling short would receive additional resources including an Individual Graduation Plan, access to summer school or adult education courses, and additional college and restorative justice counselors. Schools would receive extra funding while teachers get more professional development.

Similarly, a resolution by McKenna, Zimmer and Monica Ratliff called “Zero Dropouts” targets the same at risk population of students and makes several recommendations for keeping them enrolled in the district.

One suggestion: extend high school eligibility to age 22 in all cases for students who have not earned sufficient academic credits for graduation after four years of enrollment.

The district does not have a cut-off age for students. “We don’t have a clear policy at this time,” Gayle Pollard-Terry, a spokesperson for the district told LA School Report.

“We look at each case on individual basis,” she said. “We certainly are opposed to checking students out of school just because they have turned 18. It depends on number of credits and what makes the best sense for the student in terms of reaching the graduation requirements.”

Another suggestion by board members is to make school hours more flexible to accommodate high school students who may need additional support due to unique situations, including employment needs, parenting and family responsibilities, and health related issues.

The measure also calls for changes on campus including smaller class sizes and expand credit recovery programs including summer school and adult education. Adding more counselors and restorative justice programs would also be integral to the plan.

Finally, a resolution to dedicate one Communications Department staffer as the district’s premiere marketer is intended to boost enrollment which has been in decline for a decade.

Enrollment declines by about 3 percent annually owing to a decreasing birthrate, movement of families outside district lines, and the increasing popularity of charter schools. That costs the district about $100 million per year.

Ratliff argues that the district is losing the fight to charter schools because they “frequently have marketing materials that are designed to sell their schools and programs.”

An LA Unified marketing guru would do the same for many of the district’s most successful schools and programs. Additionally, district-run schools in immediate competition with other educational providers will shoot to the front of the line for help, getting marketing assistance as soon as next week.

Although Ratliff is the sole sponsor, the resolution encompasses many of the ideas discussed at last month’s meeting of the Committee of the Whole, which includes Zimmer and McKenna.

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