Achieve.  It means to reach or attain by effort or skill.  It means to have some level of success with whatever it is one is achieving.  So it’s no wonder that Los Angeles was abuzz with conflicting headlines when it was announced they would be raising certain standards while lowering others.  Confusion is about all the district achieved.

I awoke to a local morning news program saying that LAUSD was going to lower standards by accepting Ds for college work.  With my morning coffee, I read the same news in the Los Angeles Times.  And even columnist Steve Lopez, with a child, in LAUSD commented without knowing the reality.  I spent all day shaking my head, because as the parent of an LAUSD graduate, I know that LAUSD has considered Ds passing for years.

As a side note, my biggest peeve with my son’s college guidance counselor was that at every event, she’d drone on about how a “D” was a passing grade in high school, but it did not count for college, steering every student toward one of the two nearby community colleges, regardless of his or her grades.  I’m sure there are more active college counselors, but it spoke volumes as to how pervasive it is about the district achieving student success.

Actually, the Daily News got it closer to right.  LAUSD made attempts to clarify the policy on National Public Radio and its Facebook feed.  LAUSD posted the proposal here.  The folks on Beaudry would like you to know by 2017, they will require students to earn a “C” to pass, which is long overdue.  But buried in the C-D-F bruhaha was the change to require students to meet minimum UC requirements and to drop graduation credits from 230 to 170.  The first makes minimal sense.  The second is ridiculous.

The minimum University of California requirements would not likely gain a student admission at a single campus.  But there’s nothing inherently wrong in students needing four years of English, three of math, two each of social studies, science, and foreign language, and a visual or performing arts course.  Even advocates for vocational education can’t say those courses are bad for students.

In lowering the graduation credit requirement from the current 230 to 170 units (the state minimum), LAUSD might as well just say they’re giving up when they suggest that dropping the required credits frees students up to pursue other elective courses or take remedial classwork for classes they’ve failed.  In a typical high school with six courses each day, over four years, students have the potential to earn 240 credits.  Students could fail nearly one-third of their courses and still graduate.  And in recent years, schools have adopted schedules with seven and eight courses per year (on block schedules) which would allow a student to fail nearly half and still “achieve” a high school diploma.  These schedules intentionally build in the extra time to help students with remedial work, and yet still have time each day for core subjects.
In the press release for the proposal, Superintendent John Deasy says, “Implementation of the new A-G Curriculum will not only raise the standards of our LAUSD graduates but also prepare all youth to achieve.”  I guess that makes sense for a district that graduates roughly 50% of their students, passing two-thirds of a student’s classes would seem like an achievement.

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