Eight years ago, the Los Angeles Board of Education adopted an ambitious plan to have all students take college-prep classes to raise academic standards in the nation's second-largest school district.
Now, that plan is about to take effect: Beginning this fall, incoming freshmen will have to pass those classes to graduate.
On Tuesday, district officials backtracked, offering details of a proposal to reduce overall graduation requirements and allow students to pass those classes with a D grade.
They must change course, Los Angeles Unified School District officials said, or they would open the doors to scores of dropouts and others who can't pass the more rigorous requirements. The new plan, which still must be approved by the board, would allow students to graduate with 25% fewer credits.
"If we don't do something, we have to be prepared to be pushing out kids as dropouts," said Deputy Supt. Jaime Aquino at a school-board committee meeting Tuesday. "We face a massive dropout rate in four years."
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.
"I know of no other school district in California that is reducing graduation requirements by 60 units and calling it an improvement," said former senior district official Sharon Robinson, who now is an advisor to school board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte. LaMotte added that she isn't convinced the district can carry out the policy successfully.
Former school board member David Tokofsky, who supported the original plan, also was bothered by the reduced credit requirement. He said that officials instead should focus on getting younger students prepared to succeed in high school.
Apparently, other news outlets in L.A. are arriving at different headlines for LAUSD plans for graduation requirements. While L.A. Times is saying LAUSD is "lowering" the bar, the others are saying otherwise.
L.A. Daily News: LAUSD plan calls for raising graduation standards
CBS L.A.: LAUSD Looks To Raise The Bar For Graduating Seniors
All Los Angeles Unified high school students would have to take advanced courses such as algebra, physics and a foreign language and earn at least a "C" in order to graduate under a sweeping change in curriculum being considered by the school board.
The proposal outlined Tuesday is part of an effort to make every LAUSD graduate meet the minimum standards for admission to the UC and CSU systems.
Besides requiring the advanced courses, students would have to earn a "C" in those classes to get their diplomas. Currently, LAUSD considers "D" to be a passing grade.
To help students meet those tough new standards, the district would shrink the graduation requirement from 230 to 170 units, making it optional to take any electives, such as health or technology classes.
That would leave students' schedules open to repeat classes or get tutoring during the school day, officials said, because summer school is no longer an option after budget cuts.
"Parents are supportive of this," said Deputy Superintendent Jaime Aquino, during a briefing Tuesday to the school board's Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee.
"They're concerned about keeping the 230 credits and making `C' the passing grade. What you are doing is bringing a safety net into the school day."