Associated Administrators of Los Angeles Weekly Update | Week of February 11, 2013 |
IS IT TIME TO REVISIT THE A-G (WITH A ‘C’) GRADUATION REQUIREMENT?
7 February 2013 :: In May 2012, the LAUSD Board of Education voted to proceed with changing the high school graduation criteria to requiring the passing of A-G coursework with a minimum grade of C beginning with the freshman class of 2013-2014. This change was hailed at the time by Superintendent Deasy as “all about a kid’s civil rights.” Those of us who came of age during the civil rights era thought it an odd analogy, since clearly, access to a free, quality education is a civil right; but passing required college entrance coursework with a C is not a right, but an expectation or a goal. Dr. Deasy pushed this action based on glowing reports of the success of other school districts, particularly San Jose Unified, which had instituted the same requirements. However, San Jose recently acknowledged that its success rate was not as high as had been published. Original statistics indicated that nearly two-thirds of the students passed the classes with a C when, in fact, that number was about 36%, just slightly higher than it had been before the A-G requirement was implemented. More than 15% of the San Jose students transferred to an alternative school which had less stringent requirements to earn their diploma. Yes, more students took the rigorous courses, but the numbers who were actually eligible to go to the university barely rose.
An editorial in the Los Angeles Times (February 6, 2013) questioned the wisdom of the Board’s action based on the erroneous data from San Jose and made some valid points about options for students who are not successful in the A-G sequence. It mentioned offering a waiver for students to opt-out of A-G and switch to a more vocationally oriented curriculum. It would seem appropriate for that to be an option as “linked learning” does provide for students to earn certificates that make them immediately employable upon graduation and LAUSD is supposedly implementing such a program.
To be clear, AALA supports raising expectations, finding it a commendable and necessary action. Students should take the A-G courses in order to graduate. However, with this mandate, are we allowing them to assume that by virtue of meeting the high school graduation requirement, they will automatically matriculate to UC or CSU? The reality is that all will not, and cannot, be admitted. This begs the question, “Why is the District requiring students to earn a C in the A-G sequence in order to receive a diploma?” A grade of C means average, and mathematically, to have an average, you must have a high point and a low point. Even on a level playing field, everyone is not average or better, much less when there are other factors which affect achievement. Why should a student be denied a high school diploma because he/she does not meet the UC entrance requirements?
UCLA professor Gary Orfield, codirector of the Civil Rights Project, said it well, “…there should be a reasonable chance for students who pass their courses at any level to get a diploma.” LAUSD has promised extra support for those students who do not earn a C or better, but given today’s fiscal constraints, what are the chances of that happening? And, again, what about the “linked learning” option?
AALA posed several questions when the Board approved these new requirements and suggested critical issues that needed to be addressed. Among them were:
- Mechanisms to insure all students are ready for the A-G curriculum when they reach the 9th grade
- Adequate counseling and guidance support for students
- Summer school and adult school opportunities to make up classes or take electives
- Support for English Learners
- Accommodations for individuals with disabilities
- Provision of auxiliary hours to those high schools that need assistance in providing enough sections of the appropriate courses
- Potential loss of teachers and administrators due to the reduction in credits required for graduation
- Cross level professional development, coaching and mentoring between middle and high school teachers
- Scheduled intervals for evaluation of student progress
- Career options for students who choose not to go to college (everyone cannot be admitted nor is able to afford the tuition and related costs)
- Strengthening LAUSD relationships with community colleges
- Career/vocational training
- Recruiting of more lab science, foreign language and higher math teachers
- Increased number of specialty classrooms (i.e., science and technology labs)
- Communication vehicle for regular parental notification and involvement
To date, we have seen no evidence of any action on the above items and realize the tremendous expense involved in doing so. Superintendent and Board Members, it is time to revisit components of the new graduation requirements. If not, we fear our students will suffer as the adults make policy based on public posturing, not sound pedagogy.
RE-REVISITING THE DISCIPLINE POLICY: A RESPONSE TO PRINCIPALS’ CONCERNS
7 February 2013 :: AALA would like to thank a principal, who wishes to remain anonymous, for submitting this article.
On Friday, February 1, an innocuous e-mail dropped like a bombshell in the mailboxes of principals in one ESC that caused a firestorm reaction from principals…The e-mail read:
“We have been charged with completing a School Wide Positive Behavior Plan Rubric of Implementation (ROI) for each of the schools Districtwide…Please review the ROI and collect any available documentation that is requested, such as agendas, sign-in sheets, assembly notices, etc….I…will be visiting your schools next week…”
The reaction from principals was immediate. Below are some examples.
1. After reviewing the attached ROI, I am not clear as to exactly what documentation you want to see… I just learned of the upcoming visit this afternoon and already have several things scheduled for next week, including the Tuesday you are planning to come out.
2. …I can provide the information you are seeking to you and (name omitted) via e-mail rather than spending valuable time meeting with the two of you or you and another coordinator…
3. …My colleagues and I are…working endlessly to meet all deadlines and demands from both the ESC and Beaudry. Additionally, I, personally have multiple requests to address from other District personnel (i.e., Textbook Roadshow, OCR Proposal, data review, PA participation rates and results, intervention, etc.)…
As the above reactions indicate, elementary school principals in particular are overwhelmed…Despite Superintendent Deasy’s tepid attempt at taming the beasts: PDFs, PPTs, Excel Files, Word attachments—that invade our mailboxes on a daily basis, it’s too little, too late. The very structure of the ESCs promotes fiefdoms whose chiefs feel equally compelled to extract useful information they can hang onto the quintuple METRIC balance…
NOTE: AALA raised these administrators’ concerns with Earl Perkins, Assistant Superintendent, School Operations, on Monday, February 4, 2013, and he subsequently asked the Operations Administrator in that ESC to postpone any action based on insufficient notice to principals and lack of clarity. We certainly appreciate his prompt response. AALA’s understanding is that the requests for information will be reissued in a few weeks and new times will be scheduled well in advance, based on principals’ availability.
The reason Deasy & Co, is pushing decision making out to the schools – or a least is saying they are pushing decision making out to the schools – is that they don’t know what they are doing.
They are ®eformers without a clue.
There was an A-G Task Force/Working Group back in the day – and many of the issues addressed in AALA’s list were addressed. Very good work was done in that committee. Plans were made. The minefield was mapped.
In what must’ve been a cost saving move (We were unpaid ….but first there were little sandwiches and coffee, ….then cookies and bottles of water ….then no food …then no committee) - or perhaps an exercise in Challenge Avoidance – the working group was dissolved and our work lost.
The same is true of the Discipline Policy Task Force – charged with developing the School Wide Positive Behavior Support Plan. That program – which has exceptionally well thought out and been recognized as a national model - was transferred into the silo of School Operations and hastily reassigned to people in the new ESC’s who weren’t at the meetings or even on board. And they have responded by sending out memos – or as the anonymous but experienced principal above says “PDFs, PPTs, Excel Files, Word attachments as well as any available documentation that is requested, such as agendas, sign-in sheets, assembly notices, etc…”.
A reconfigured Discipline Policy Task Force has been formed, charged with informing parents of the new plan. Except, as you can see: there isn’t a plan!
Just a blizzard of administrivia.
I suspect we are in the “two steps back” phase of progress.