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www.ppic.org College Readiness as a Graduation Requirement

www.ppic.org College Readiness as a Graduation Requirement

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Published by Kathryn Black

An Assessment of San Diego’s

An Assessment of San Diego’s

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Published by: Kathryn Black on Apr 25, 2013
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College Readinessas a GraduationRequirement
An Assessment of San Diego’sChallenges
April 2013
Julian R. Betts Andrew C. Zau Karen Volz Bachofer
Supported with funding from the Donald Bren Foundation
o be considered for admission to the University of California (UC) or the California StateUniversity (CSU) system, high school students must complete all a–g courses withgrades of C or higher. The a–g course sequence includes 30 semesters of UC-approvedcollege preparatory coursework in seven subject areas, and completion indicates a high levelof academic preparation. Recently, four large school districts (San Diego, Los Angeles, SanFrancisco, and Oakland) adopted new graduation policies requiring that students completethese courses to obtain a high school diploma. These policy changes are in part a response toconcern expressed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups about wide varia-tions in a–g completion rates across high schools in major urban districts. This study examines the potential e
ect of this bold change by analyzing the transcriptsof students in the San Diego Uni
ed School District. Focusing on the class of 2011, we assesshow course-taking patterns will need to change for the class of 2016. Findings from San Diegoshould inform implementation of new graduation policies in the other districts, in which asimilar percentage of graduates meet UC/CSU admission eligibility requirements.Although the UC/CSU systems require that students pass all a–g courses with a grade of C or higher, San Diego and other districts that have instituted new a–g graduation policiesallow grades of D or higher to count toward meeting the requirements for graduation, per-haps in recognition of the di
culty of college preparatory coursework. In San Diego’s classof 2011, 61.1 percent of graduates would have met the lower D or higher standard, whereas
Digital Vision
only 41.8 percent would have met the C or higher standard. The share declines if we includestudents who dropped out or were still in school but did not graduate in 2011.English Learners, Hispanic and African American students, males, students whose parentshad a high school education or less, and students enrolled in special education had lower thanaverage a–g completion rates. In the most dramatic gap, 67.2 percent of graduates who hadnever been English Learners completed the a–g course sequence with grades of D or higher,compared to only 35.2 percent of graduates who were still English Learners in grade 12.San Diego Uni
ed, and most likely its counterparts, will need to undertake major inter-ventions to make sure that all students accelerate their learning to meet the new standardsand graduate from high school. Otherwise, the very students whom the reforms aim to helpcould be denied high school diplomas.Our
ndings raise a number of policy issues, apart from the obvious need for interventionsto retain and assist at-risk students. We found that in San Diego, 12 percent of graduates whodid not meet the a–g requirements with grades of C or higher nonetheless enrolled in four-year colleges or universities. This raises an important concern: a–g courses are required onlyby the UC and CSU systems, and it would be unfortunate if students who might go to othercolleges or universities are unable to do so because they fail to graduate from high school.Another policy concern is that the new requirements may discourage students from tak-ing the Career and Technical Education courses that prepare them for careers either immedi-ately after high school or after completing postsecondary programs.Perhaps the most important policy implication is that clear communication with students,parents, and teachers about the new requirements is critical. This communication needs tobegin in middle school, if not earlier, because middle school students take many courses thateither meet a–g requirements or prepare them to complete subsequent a–g coursework inhigh school.Districts implementing these new graduation requirements will need to guard againsttwo unwanted side e
ects: the watering down of a–g course content and possible gradein
ation that allows students to graduate even though they are not mastering the contentof a–g courses.As an aid to administrators in districts that have adopted the a–g course sequence as agraduation requirement, we are releasing the “a–g On Track Model”—a set of spreadsheetsthat can forecast which grade 6 or grade 7 students will have the most di
culty ful
lling a–grequirements. Districts that have not adopted a–g graduation requirements may want to usethe On Track Model to forecast the college readiness of middle school students.
 The a–g On Track Model is available atwww.ppic.org/main/dataSet.asp?i=1336and http://sandera.ucsd.edu/resources/index.htmlFor the full report and related resources, please visit our publication page:www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=1049
College Readiness as a Graduation Requirementwww.ppic.org
President Barack Obama’s repeated calls or American highschools to increase the college readiness o graduates haveprompted schools nationwide to examine both the level o college preparation among their high school students and variation across student subgroups. In Caliornia, eligibil-ity to attend either the University o Caliornia (UC) or theCaliornia State University (CSU) hinges on whether stu-dents complete the so-called a–g course requirements whilein high school. Te act that minority and socioeconomi-cally disadvantaged students are underrepresented in botho the state’s public university systems has prompted many to consider whether all students have access to the coursesthey need to prepare them or UC or CSU.In Caliornia, the American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU) has made the a–g requirements a civil rights issue,arguing that many students lack access to a–g coursesand the classes leading up to these college preparatory courses.
Similarly, Education rust–West has called ortougher graduation standards that will prepare all highschool graduates or postsecondary education, stating that“all students ought to graduate with the courses needed toenter Caliornia’s public universities” (Education rust–West 2010, 2012). Tese organizations have played a majorrole in encouraging a number o large districts in the stateto make passing the a–g courses a requirement or a highschool diploma.Several districts, including San Diego Unied SchoolDistrict (SDUSD), Los Angeles Unied School District(LAUSD), and the unied school districts o Oakland, SanFrancisco, and San Jose, have adopted policies requiringthat students complete the a–g course sequence to earna high school diploma. San Jose Unied School District(SJUSD) was the rst to implement the new standard,starting with the graduating class o 2002. Te other dis-tricts have put policies in place that will go into eect orstudents graduating in the near uture.Te call to level the playing eld by requiring that allhigh school graduates complete the courses that makethem eligible to attend one o Caliornia’s two public uni- versity systems provides a bold and egalitarian vision o the uture o Caliornia education. But such a major shiin the graduation hurdle creates the risk o a sizable dropin the graduation rate.Tis report examines data rom one o the districtsthat has adopted the new graduation standard, San DiegoUnied School District. In San Diego, students in theclass o 2016 will be the rst to ace the new requirementor earning a high school diploma. Although San DiegoUnied’s graduation requirements or students graduatingbeore 2016 are close to the UC/CSU requirements, thereare important dierences in the new graduation policy.Te rst part o this report examines a–g comple-tion rates or students in the class o 2011. We do this toexplore the challenges that SDUSD is likely to encounter asit transitions to a higher graduation standard or the classo 2016. Tese completion rates represent a lower bound
Several districts have adopted policiesrequiring that students complete the a–gcourse sequence to earn a high school diploma.
California high school students must complete the a–g requirement to beeligible for admission to the UC and CSU systems.
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