College prep for all, but a D will do

Eight years ago, under pressure to qualify more Latino and black students for college, Los Angeles Unified’s school board voted to make the college-prep courses required by state universities a graduation requirement.  That policy goes into effect for ninth graders this fall. Fearing massive dropouts, district officials propose to let students graduate with 25 percent fewer credits, reports the Los Angeles Times. Students could pass with a D, even though the state universities require a C or better in what’s known as A-G classes for admission.

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.

. . . Students who pass all their classes typically would earn a minimum 180 credits by the end of their junior year.

District officials hope to require students to earn at least a C in college-prep courses starting with the class of 2017.

Some argue that students benefit from taking college-prep courses, even if they scrape by with a D.

“These courses are the markers of a more rigorous curriculum,” said USC education professor Guilbert Hentschke. Since most students don’t attend a four-year university, a college-prep curriculum also “should have a giant effect on success in a two-year community college,” Hentschke said.

With fewer credits required for graduation, students will be able to retake classes they’ve failed — advanced algebra is a killer — during the school day, officials say.

In 2011, nearly half of graduating seniors failed to complete the A-G classes. Many students had dropped out by then. Fifteen percent of those who started high school four years earlier were eligible for state universities.

Requiring all students to pass the A-G requirements was “magical thinking,” not leadership, editorializes the Times.

D students will not succeed in community college. They’ll end up in the Bermuda Triangle of higher education — remedial math, writing and reading — from which few emerge with a degree or even with the ability to pass a single college-level class. Sadly, most C students don’t qualify for college-level classes at community colleges or state universities. If teachers lower expectations — inevitable when they’re teaching lots of poorly prepared students — the B students are likely to end up in remedial classes too.