Around 75% of 10th graders in the Los Angeles Unified School District are at risk of not reaching graduation because they are already falling behind college prep class requirements.
The news has a number of those in the district, including Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines, reconsidering the requirements that had been implemented over a decade ago in an effort to better prepare underprivileged students for college.
"I do believe the goal is a good one, but we need to be realistic," Cortines said. Enforcing the plan is "not practical, realistic or fair to the students of 2017. I don't think we've provided the supports to the schools."
However, many in the district continue to support the plan. According to community activists, the district needs to do more to help their students pass the classes, which are at a more challenging level, writes Howard Blume for The LA Times.
When the district initially approved the college prep goals in 2005, they estimated it would take 12 years for students in the district to acclimate to them, reports Barbara Jones for The Los Angeles Daily News.
Students in the graduating class of 2017 must earn at least a C in a set of courses that hope to make all students eligible for entrance into the University of California and California State systems. The courses include four years of English and three years of math.
District officials said the plan has served students well, as students completing the minimum curriculum required has jumped from 15% to 28%. Graduation rates are on the rise as well. Last year, the four-year graduation in the district was 67%.
However, less than 50% of those graduates would have met the 2017 requirements. Of the 37,000 students set to graduate in 2017, only 26% are currently on track to graduate, with 17% repeating the 9th grade.
The decision to implement the plan stemmed from a similar plan in San Jose Unified, which had appeared to have success at first, but the gains were later determined to be related to an accounting error. According to a 2013 Times review, most students in the district did not qualify to apply to state college.
Despite LA Unified immediately falling behind in the goals of the plan, former Superintendent John Deasy, who resigned last October, continued to insist that a grade of C or better in these classes was necessary in order to prepare students for college.
However, because students needed to repeat so many of the courses, the district was forced to lessen the number of classes required to graduate. In addition, it became harder for a number of schools to include advanced courses such as calculus, as well as elective courses that increased student interest in school.
The district is also currently looking for a refund for the millions of dollars it spent on a failed project with Apple, which sought to give each student in the district their own iPad. The district was recently given approval to seek legal action against Apple and Pearson, which had created the learning material and curriculum each iPad was to be outfitted with.