Saturday, April 30, 2016

EITHER 16,000 OR 6,000 SENIORS ARE IN DANGER OF NOT GRADUATING +smf’s 2¢ +a real meaningful opinion about A-thru-G

●●smf: according to the two articles below, by the same author on the same day but in two different (but not much) online publications, either 16,000 or 6,000 LAUSD seniors are in danger of not graduating.  OMG!  But what’s 10,000 twelfth graders among anti-public school provocateurs?

Posted on LA School Report by Craig Clough |        

April 28, 2016 6:30 pm  ::  The LA Unified school board faced a difficult decision in June.

It had previously voted to raise the bar on its graduation requirements starting in 2016 in an effort to get more students into college, but it was clear not enough students were ready for the challenge and graduation rates would plummet if aggressive action was not taken.

The board ultimately chose to stick with the raised bar, and the district is now entering the final stages of that difficult decision.

More than 6,000 seniors are currently failing at least one of their required “A though G” courses, meaning if they can’t raise their grade to a D by the end of the semester in six weeks, they will not graduate on time. Yet these students are considered “on track” by the district because to be labeled on track, a student need only be enrolled in the required A-G courses.

And 10,000 more are considered “off track,” meaning they are missing one or more A-G class.

“While I am encouraged by the recent efforts and commitment (to A-G), it also shows us the gap of the work that we have today,” board member Monica Garcia told LA School Report.

Garcia has been one of the board’s strongest supporters of the A-G standards, and at the June board debate said, “This has been a hard road. Not because we are not committed to a hundred percent for everyone,” but because the district struggles to “improve practice that meets the needs of all kids.”

A recent district report showed that 68 percent of seniors are currently “on track” to meet their A-G course requirements — a number that has been predicted to significantly rise before the semester is over — but 30 percent, or 6,400, of those on-track students were failing a course at the 10-week mark. While district leaders have expressed optimism that many students are getting the help they need, it is clear that a significant number of students who last year would have otherwise graduated with the same final transcript will not do so this year.

Thousands of other students will also graduate having earned D’s in the A-G courses, which means they will not be eligible for California’s public universities because C’s are required. And still thousands more will graduate only due to a massive $15 million credit recovery program that allows them to earn a C if they can demonstrate proficiency in an online course, a practice that has been called into question by some education experts who characterize it as an essentially cheap and faulty way of getting a student to graduate.

A report this month from the Public Policy Institute of California studied the impact the raised A-G standards are having on a number of districts that have taken them on. San Diego Unified, which like LA Unified is also implementing A-G standards for the first time this year, is facing a huge drop-off in graduation rates.* ( The district is undertaking a wide-scale credit recovery program for the first time this year similar to LA Unified’s and it is unclear to what level this could boost the graduation rate.)

The results at San Diego Unified are bittersweet, with more students than ever meeting the A-G requirements, while at the same time graduation rates are set to drop from 87.5 percent in 2014 to 72 percent this year. Ten percent more San Diego students may become eligible to apply to the California public university systems, but 16 percent more may fail to graduate.

“In sum, by increasing graduation requirements, San Diego and other districts have opened more doors to success. Ironically, they have also opened more doors to failure, in the sense that a greater number of students are now at risk of not graduating,” the report stated.

While district leaders are predicting that LA Unified will avoid any graduation crisis due to the credit recovery program, and that graduation rates may even rise to new highs, the district still grapples with the same issues San Diego is facing from choosing to raise the graduation bar. Like San Diego, LA Unified lowered the planned requirement for C’s to be earned in A-G classes for graduation to D’s, even though it meant the ultimate purpose of getting kids into college would not be met.

According to a district memo, as of March, 48 percent of LA Unified seniors were on-track to graduate with C’s or better in all A-G courses, meaning if the district actually meets the predicted rate of 80 percent graduation this year, some 11,000-plus students will be graduating without qualifying for admittance to California’s public universities, which is the entire intent and purpose of the A-G graduation standards.

“You talk about the right to a diploma and this is a debate that we have, and I don’t think there is really one right answer that could apply to all students,” said Sara Mooney, an education program associate at United Way of Greater Los Angeles, which has advocated for the district to keep the A-G standards. “For students, the purpose of the courses are not just to make you eligible for college but this is also a conversation about the quality of a child’s education, and that means the quality of their diploma and the weight that their diploma carries after they graduate. We really have to be responsible for this in offering them the resources to be successful in their school and subsequently in life.”

When asked how she weighs the balance between the higher standards and the needs of the students who will not make it to graduation as a result, Garcia said, “For the last 10 years I have represented the kids who don’t get a diploma and who do get a diploma. And every year there have been more young people getting a diploma. So we are not new to dealing with the absence of success for our system to get to everybody. That is not the new piece. The new piece is that we do have a challenge to the system in how do we manage what is a California requirement, and what is an LAUSD requirement. And we have more students completing the courses required for college, which is a very good thing.”

One promising statistic for A-G supporters is that overall the district’s A-G completion rate has gone from 18 percent in 2005 to the projected-and-rising 68 percent of today.

“I am encouraged by what I see for us moving toward higher standards and higher levels of personalization,” Garcia said. “I think it’s very exciting that, yes, we have increased the challenge, and repeatedly our young people have said I need high expectations like that.”

* A previous version of this story said San Diego Unified was not undertaking a large credit recovery program. The report citied includes only data through August before the credit recovery program began.


By Craig Clough in The 74 - This article was produced in partnership with LA School Report |

April 28, 2016  ::  While the Los Angeles Unified School District’s projected 2016 graduation rate continues to tick up as seniors complete extra credit recovery courses to make up those they previously failed, 30 percent of those now considered “on track” for graduation currently aren’t because they are failing at least one of the district’s A through G classes.

To be labeled “on track” a student need only be enrolled in the A-G courses, which are required for admittance to California’s public universities, and if these failing grades do not improve to at least a D by the end of the semester, six weeks away, roughly 6,400 seniors would not be eligible to graduate on time — which would drop the city’s current projected graduation rate from 68 percent to 48 percent.

Frances Gipson, LA Unified’s chief academic officer, said a number of actions have been taken to get extra help and resources to the students who are failing a course, and the district is still hopeful that last year’s record graduation rate of 77 percent will be surpassed.

“We are seeking to exceed last year’s expectations, that is our goal,” Gipson told LA School Report.

Due in part to a $15 million credit recovery program that has been aggressively implemented this school year, the projected A-G completion rate has risen steadily, up from 54 percent in January and 63 percent in February to now stand at 68 percent. (District officials in February predicted LA Unified may graduate 80 percent of its seniors, which would be an all-time record.)

The credit recovery program was enacted by the school board this fiscal year to help offset a potential graduation crisis, as this year is the first time the A-G courses are required for graduation. The courses, if all are passed with a C or better, would make students eligible for acceptance in California’s public universities, although seniors only need to get a D in order to graduate.

Gipson said the extra help being given to seniors failing an A-G course include having counselors meet with the students and letters sent to the student’s parent or guardian. School counselors “have met with all students in the class of 2016 that are currently on-track but received a fail at the 10-week mark to discuss intervention and supports needed to pass and stay on track,” said an April 18 memo to Superintendent Michelle King from Gipson and Carol Alexander, director of A-G Intervention and Support.

Asked if the number of students currently failing an A-G course was a cause for concern, Cynthia Lim, executive director of LA Unified’s Office of Data and Accountability, said that it was hard to determine what the number meant because “this is new. We’ve never had A-G as a graduation requirement before, so this is all new.”

Gipson added that the current 20 percent number “is relatively consistent with past patterns we have seen with students in terms of, as you think about your own child or your friend’s children, there are always those who may be getting a D or an F and we need find out why they may be getting a D or an F. Is it because of attendance? Is it because they need extra tutorial support? Are they not turning in assignments? Do they need extra assignments? I think there are multiple pathways we can explore.”

Before the credit recovery program began across the district in the fall, the projected graduation rate was only 54 percent, a steep decline from last year’s all-time high of 77 percent.

The credit recovery program involves getting seniors currently not on track to take extra coursework on weekends, after school as well as during holiday breaks. Many of the courses are online and only require students to demonstrate basic proficiency in the subject, which has caused some to question the academic rigor of the online courses. The district and Gipson have previously defended the academic value of the courses.

Over spring break in late March, the district enacted the “Spring Plus” program at 15 high schools that provided resources and dedicated staff to get students back on track, according to Gipson and Alexander’s memo. The program has continued on Saturdays since spring break and is scheduled to be completed May 28. Attendance has varied depending on the day, but 313 seniors showed up at the 15 high schools on the first Monday of spring break.

According to an April 4 memo, 21,729 seniors are currently on-track to complete their A-G requirements, but 6,428 — or 30 percent — received an F at the 10-week mark. There are 4,746 seniors off-track by one or two courses, 1,455 off-track by three or four courses and 3,878 off-track by five or more courses.

In June, when facing the stark graduation projections due to the coming A-G requirements, the school board lowered the required grades in A-G courses from a C to a D for the class of 2017. (The class of 2016 could always receive D’s for graduation.) The A-G course requirements, which were first conceived and passed by the board in 2005, are aimed at getting more LA Unified students into California’s public universities. Despite the lowering of the bar, the district has made significant progress since 2005, according to a March 7 memo by Gipson and Alexander that showed 48 percent of all LA Unified high school students are passing their A-G courses with C’s or better.

“This shows tremendous growth since the class of 2005, when only 18 percent graduated meeting the A-G course requirements with a C or better,” the memo stated.


●●●ANOTHER …AND FAR WISER OPINION: Alan Warhaftig [], The English coordinator/counselor at Fairfax High School, writes 4LAKids:

Subject: Re: 16,000 seniors failing with 6 weeks to go: The double-edged sword of LAUSD's raised bar for graduation - LA School Report

MISIS aside, it was obvious from the outset that the A-G graduation requirement would cause problems.  I once told Marguerite LaMotte how much I admired her for voting against A-G, and she responded that she’d paid a stiff political price for that vote.

I don’t doubt that there have been examples of low expectations by counselors based on the race of a student, and I’m all for raising standards and making the high school diploma more meaningful, but having worked with teenagers for 25 years, I can tell you that, in general, they could not care less about a School Board mandate for higher achievement.  The edicts of elected officials don't outweigh what’s going on in some of their lives.  In the past two months, I’ve had three students in my classes unexpectedly lose a parent.   School is a struggle for them at the moment, but it’s not the most important struggle in their lives.

Declaring that LAUSD would henceforth attempt to emulate Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, where "all the children are above average," was the height of impracticality.  A-G is a set of requirements for eligibility for admission to the state’s four-year universities, and the California Master Plan for Higher Education says that the UCs are for the top eighth of high school graduates and the Cal States are for the top third.  Why should all high school students be required to meet the academic requirements of the top third in order to receive a high school diploma?  Merely meeting the A-G requirements doesn’t gain a student admission to Cal States or UCs.  There aren’t enough places for everyone, so admission requires a competitive GPA and SAT score.

Practically speaking, the A-G graduation requirement means that, in addition to previous graduation requirements, students need to pass Algebra 2, Chemistry and two years of a foreign language.  Algebra 2 is the problem.  With the fail rate for Algebra 1 above 50%, Algebra 2 is a huge hurdle for many students. With the adoption of the Common Core curriculum, math has become substantially more difficult - requiring more problem solving than procedure.

It would be interesting to know how many students aren’t reflected in the charts, having dropped out of school after failing Algebra 1 two or even three times, and seeing no path to graduation.  What is the four-year cohort graduation rate?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

There are many of us "others" who went on to college having failed Algebra more than once in high school. At 68 I am still unable to actually tackle math other than the basics. Luckily for me, I ended up at a college that did not require math as a requirement for graduation. Recently they were rethinking this model and I asked "WHY??". Because that is what all the other schools require was the worst answer to receive. I pity the fools…..wasn't that a song?