Officials at the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest, were ecstatic in announcing that they expect to see a record graduation rate in June (“Why L.A. Unified’s graduation rate is expected to soar this year,” Los Angeles Times, Feb. 24). Ordinarily, this would indeed be cause for celebration. But the reasons for the news are enough to create deep skepticism among all who care about public education.
To understand my reaction, it’s necessary to go back to 2005 when the school board decided that all students would have to pass courses needed to qualify for admission to a four-year state college in order to graduate. When too many students couldn’t get a C in these courses, the school board last year lowered the standard to a D. In taking its first step, the district set itself up for failure. Not all students want to go to college or have the ability to handle college-level work. What they desperately need instead is a high quality career and technical curriculum.
For all others with college aspirations, earning a D in academic courses should be an indication that they are not college material. Yet the board refused to change its policy. In fact, it exacerbated the problem by promoting credit recovery, even as one former board member correctly pointed out that “Credit recovery is not content recovery.” Not satisfied with this transparent attempt to boost the graduation rate, the board permitted a teacher to change a student’s grade from an F to a D if the student did additional work that would have resulted in a D the first time.
These outrageous tactics mean that students have to work extremely hard not to graduate from the Los Angeles Unified School District. Lowering standards is the best way to totally undermine confidence in the value of a high-school diploma. It is a fraud perpetrated on taxpayers who are entitled to know if students are being well educated. It’s little wonder that they are angry and frustrated.
The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.